Issue Salience and Norm Change in New Democracies
New democracies tend to create norms that stigmatize behavior associated with the past authoritarian regime. How can these norms break? We argue that when issues alluding to stigmatized symbols rise in salience, they can make individuals with strong preferences on these issues breach established norms, thereby initiating a process of normative change. We test this argument in Spain, where the fall of the dictatorship came hand- in-hand with the stigmatization of public expressions of national identity. We hypothesize that the issue of Catalan independence normalized such displays. Using as outcome the density 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 2017 Catalan independence referendum. Analyses of flag clustering and data from an original survey suggest that the effect is driven by norm change instead of alternative mechanisms.