Henry E. Hale and Olga Onuch, “Zelensky’s Fight After the War: What Peace Will Mean for Ukraine’s Democracy,” Foreign Affairs, July 4, 2023,

Olga Onuch and Henry E. Hale, The Zelensky Effect (London/Oxford: Hurst Publishers and Oxford University Press, November 2022).

Aleksandr Fisher, Henry E. Hale, and Ridvan Peshkopia, “Foreign Support Does Not Mean Sway for Illiberal Nationalist Regimes: Putin Sympathy, Russian Influence, and Trump Foreign Policy in the Balkans,” Comparative European Politics, September 22, 2022.
Volodymyr Kulyk and Henry E. Hale, “Imperfect Measures of Dynamic Identities: The Changing Impact of Ethnolinguistic Characteristics on Political Attitudes in Ukraine,” Nations and Nationalism, v.28, no.3, July 2022, pp.841-860.
Henry E. Hale, “Authoritarian Rallying as Reputational Cascade? Evidence from Putin’s Popularity Surge after Crimea,” American Political Science Review, v.116, no.2, May 2022, pp.580-94.
Henry E. Hale, “A ‘Terrific Symbol’: Physical Personalization of Pandemic Relief Enhances Presidential Support,” PS: Political Science and Politics, January 20, 2022.


This strand of my research, dating back to my PhD dissertation, develops a relational theory of identity as a cognitive uncertainty-reduction mechanism and explores how to study it. In a long series of studies, I employ both quantitative and qualitative methods to show how this perspective helps us understand such phenomena as: nation-building, secessionism, ethnic conflict, reform attitudes, and the conditions under which ethnofederalism causes multiethnic state stability or collapse (as in the demise of the USSR).

While traditional Western concepts like “democracy” and “authoritarianism” are fine for some purposes, they do a poor job helping us understand how politics actually works in many countries of the world, including but certainly not limited to most of the post-Soviet world. I thus argue for a new conceptual framework, and use both quantitative and qualitative data to show that politics is often best understood through the logic of what I call patronal politics. This perspective explains why we are so often misled by what appears to be democratization or authoritarian consolidation, and helps us anticipate when and how revolutions are likely to occur as well as their consequences, including when actual democratization can be expected. Formal constitutions play an unexpected role even when informal politics dominates.

It is now widely accepted that public opinion influences foreign policy, which in turn explains why governments devote considerable resources toward trying to influence public opinion in other countries. Here, I am interested not only in the sources, dimensions, and implications of rallying-around-the-flag, as in the case of Russia’s war against Ukraine, but also such questions as: How do international economic sanctions impact foreign public opinion? How does messaging from illiberal leaders like Vladimir Putin impact public opinion in other countries? How do people form beliefs about what is happening in war, including whom to blame? And is there something that might be called a “populist international,” or “global Trumpism?”

This line of work, drawing on my relational theory of identity, seeks to liberate the field from unproductive Huntingtonian logic to see why the notion of civilizations has become so important in political discourse, particularly in the context of illiberal movements and conflicts like Russia's war against Ukraine. Publications include both theoretical work and quantitative analysis of mass- and elite-level data on civilizational identity.

Even in the least democratic countries, there is political contestation, or what Tilly has called contentious politics. In some cases, this competition is structured along formal lines between political parties, but where patronal politics reigns, much is not what it might seem, where the most important political competition is less that between political parties per se, instead being that between powerful political-economic networks and party substitutes. Nevertheless, in all these battles, public opinion is an important resource to be wielded, giving those who wield it important political advantages. Addressing these themes, my addresses such topics as the sources of Putin’s appeal in Russia, why Zelensky has won such support in Ukraine, what explains Ukraine’s mass mobilization against Russia, how “grassroots” protest tends to be both a mass and elite phenomenon, and why party systems tend to be weak and unstable in many parts of the world. New ongoing research examines more generally how events ranging from war to pandemics shape political leaders’ support.

In the middle of my continuing research into rallying around the flag, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and immediately sparked my interest in how it might be affecting leadership support in both Western contexts like the US and postcommunist contexts like Ukraine and Russia. That sparked the next logical question: can political elites’ messaging and performance influence the health behavior of their citizens, at least among supporters or co-partisans? The result is a series of papers on different angles into this topic, the first of which are now published.





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