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Online Department Seminar: The Normalization of Stigmatized Symbols

Elias Dinas
Wednesday, December 16, 2020, 1:30 pm – 3:10 pm


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 al- ternative 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.

with Sergi Martinez & Vicente Valentim