Social Norms and Preference Falsification in a Democracy

46 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2022 Last revised: 21 Mar 2022

See all articles by Vicente Valentim

Vicente Valentim

University of Oxford - Nuffield College

Date Written: February 1, 2022


Do political preferences translate into behavior? When an individual's views are stigmatized, they have an incentive to conceal them. This paper provides real-world causal evidence of preference falsification in a democratic setting. My research design leverages within-voting station variation in the observability of vote choices induced by a unique decision by the Spanish electoral commission. Using a difference-in-differences design, I show that observability of one's behavior decreased voting for the right-wing party PP, which is stigmatized in the country. At the individual level, individuals who support the party are more likely to make efforts to keep their vote choice secret. Those who make those efforts also feel more uncomfortable answering surveys on politics. The results highlight the role of social norms as predictors of political behavior, and highlight how seemingly minor changes to the electoral procedure can affect electoral outcomes.

Keywords: Social norms, preference falsification, mainstream parties, stigmatization, democratic norms, Spain

Suggested Citation

Valentim, Vicente, Social Norms and Preference Falsification in a Democracy (February 1, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Vicente Valentim (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Nuffield College ( email )

United Kingdom

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