The Normalization of Stigmatized Political Symbols

84 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2020 Last revised: 5 Nov 2020

See all articles by Elias Dinas

Elias Dinas

University of Oxford

Sergi Martínez

European University Institute

Vicente Valentim

European University Institute

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

Suggested Citation

Dinas, Elias and Martínez Soler, Sergi and Valentim, Vicente, The Normalization of Stigmatized Political Symbols (January 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Elias Dinas

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Sergi Martínez Soler

European University Institute

San Domenico di Fiesole

Vicente Valentim (Contact Author)

European University Institute ( email )

San Domenico di Fiesole

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