Elias Dinas, Sergi Martinez, and Vicente Valentim: Issue Salience and Norm Change in New Democracies
Abstract: Transitions to democracy often create norms against expressions of affinity to the authoritarian past. How can these norms change? We argue that stigmatized beliefs, practices and symbols can be normalized when new political issues erode their link to the authoritarian past. To test this argument, we look at the case of Spain, where the fall of the Franco regime brought a stigmatization of public displays of national identity.
We would expect the rise in salience of the issue of Catalan independence to reduce such stigma. Using an original dataset of national flags found in the façade of buildings, we employ a difference-in-differences design that compares Madrid to Lisbon and Athens. We find a remarkable increase in density of Spanish flags after the process of Catalan independence had its peak. Looking into the clustering of flags and data from an original survey, we show that this effect is driven by normative change and not by alternative mechanisms.