Issue Salience and Norm Change in New Democracies
68 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2020
Date Written: January 11, 2020
New democracies tend to create norms that stigmatize behavior associated with the past authoritarian regime. How can these norms change? We argue that when issues alluding to stigmatized symbols and practices rise in salience, they can make individuals with strong preferences on these issues breach established norms and initiate a process of normative change. We test this argument by looking at the case of Spain, where the transition to democracy stigmatized public displays of national identity. We expect the increased salience of the issue of Catalan independence to normalize such displays. Using an original dataset of national flags on the façade of buildings, we employ a difference-in-differences design that compares Madrid to Lisbon and Athens. We find a remarkable increase in displays of Spanish flags after the peak of the process of Catalan independence. Analyses of flag clustering and data from an original survey suggest that the effect is driven by normative change instead of alternative mechanisms.
Keywords: Social norms, nationalism, Spain, authoritarian transitions, flags
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