Social Norm Change, Political Symbols, and Expression of Stigmatized Preferences
78 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2020 Last revised: 1 Aug 2023
Date Written: January 11, 2020
Public displays of nationalism increased in Spain following the referendum on Catalan independence. We show that this change is due to a change in norms rather than in preferences. Spanish nationalism was stigmatized due to its association with authoritarianism. The referendum generated outgroup threat, giving individuals with nationalist views an incentive to display them. This updated perceptions about the strength of the anti-authoritarian norm, leading to its erosion. We collect a longitudinal dataset of Spanish flags hanging from buildings and combine it with an original survey. Evidence shows that the Catalan crisis increased displays of the Spanish flag and shows that their proliferation follows a pattern of normative change. Flags also worked as a coordination mechanism for normative change: their display rendered them more acceptable and made right-wing individuals more comfortable to approve of Francoism explicitly. Our results highlight the role of social norms as drivers of political behavior.
Keywords: Social norms, nationalism, Spain, authoritarian transitions, flags
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