(Comparative Politics) Abstract: How does ethnicity influence mass support for radical reforms? Treating ethnicity as a set of cognitively useful categories serving both ethnocentric and inclusive ends, we argue people can strive toward civic visions for their state yet interpret obstacles through “ethnic” lenses. We label this phenomenon aspirational identity politics, prominent when external aggressors exploit identity commonalities with home-state subpopulations. Consequently, ethnic cognition can facilitate radical reform support not only through ethnocentrism, but also by connecting prosocial dispositions to support for in-group favoring reforms. Accordingly, original survey data from Ukraine in 2017 reveal prosocial values better predict support for nine radical reforms––including in-group favoring ones––than does ethnocentrism. Support is also strongest among economically better-off people, indicating backing for radical reform is generally more about aspiration than desperation.
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Co-author: Henry E. Hale