“Issue Salience, Norm Change, and the Normalisation of Authoritarian Symbols,” with Elias Dinas, European University Institute, Florence

Event time: 
Friday, November 1, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Institution for Social and Policy Studies (PROS77 ), A002 See map
77 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 


Abstract: Successful democratic transitions are often accompanied by the stigmatisation of the authoritarian past. The resulting democratic polity evolves around a set of norms that penalize expressed affinity to the past regime and its associated heuristic pillars. Abiding by those norms, both voters and parties tend to crystallise and prolong them. The question that naturally arises is how these norms change. We argue that beliefs, practices and symbols otherwise linked to the authoritarian regime can be normalised when new issues emerge that qualify or erode the proximity between these symbols and the authoritarian past. We use the case of Spain to test this argument. A paradigmatic example of right-wing authoritarianism, the Franco regime led to the stigmatisation of public displays of national identity due to their association with the right-wing ideology and its authoritarian past. We examine whether the intensification of the Catalan independence movement made Spanish nationals more likely to display their affinity to their nation regardless of such stigma. We use a behavioral measure of nationalist sentiment: the density of flags displayed in the facade of buildings. We employ a difference-in-differences design comparing Madrid to Lisbon and Athens. We find a large increase in Spanish flags density as a consequence of the process of independence. We corroborate the attitudinal implications of our behavioural measure with a survey conducted in Madrid. We also find evidence that flags are clustered within streets, suggesting the presence of peer effects throughout a gradual process of norm change.

Elias Dinas is the holder of the Swiss chair in Federalism, Democracy and International Governance, jointly at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Department of Political and Social Sciences in the European University Institute in Florence, on leave from the University of Oxford, where he is associate professor of Comparative Politics and tutorial fellow at Brasenose College. In most his current research tries to shed light on the historical foundations of political behavior and public opinion.

This workshop series is sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.

Open to the Yale community only.

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