The Normalization of Stigmatized Political Symbols
84 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2020 Last revised: 5 Nov 2020
Date Written: January 11, 2020
We document a large increase in displays of national flags in Spain following the referendum on Catalan independence. While most research on political behavior would attribute this behavioral change to a change in preferences, we argue that it is instead due to a change in social norms. The Spanish flag was associated with the country's authoritarian past, and hence stigmatized. The process of Catalan independence gave flags an alternative meaning, making norms against their display more ambiguous. Using a newly collected dataset of flags on the façade of buildings and an original survey, we show numerous tests supporting argument. In turn, we find no evidence that the increase in flags is explained by a change in preferences among Spanish individuals. Our findings highlight the role of social norms in affecting political behavior, and provide insights into the erosion of norms against behavior associated with authoritarianism.
Keywords: Social norms, nationalism, Spain, authoritarian transitions, flags
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