Field evidence of social influence in the expression of political preferences: The case of secessionists flags in Barcelona

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Abstract

Different models of social influence have explored the dynamics of social contagion, imitation, and diffusion of different types of traits, opinions, and conducts. However, few behavioral data indicating social influence dynamics have been obtained from direct observation in `natural' social contexts. The present research provides that kind of evidence in the case of the public expression of political preferences in the city of Barcelona, where thousands of citizens supporting the secession of Catalonia from Spain have placed a Catalan flag in their balconies. We present two different studies. 1) In July 2013 we registered the number of flags in 26% of the the city. We find that there is a large dispersion in the density of flags in districts with similar density of pro-independence voters. However, we find that the density of flags tends to be fostered in those electoral district where there is a clear majority of pro-independence vote, while it is inhibited in the opposite cases. 2) During 17 days around Catalonia's 2013 National Holiday we observed the position at balcony resolution of the flags displayed in the facades of 82 blocks. We compare the clustering of flags on the facades observed each day to equivalent random distributions and find that successive hangings of flags are not independent events but that a local influence mechanism is favoring their clustering. We also find that except for the National Holiday day the density of flags tends to be fostered in those facades where there is a clear majority of pro-independence vote.

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Parravano, A., Noguera, J. A., Hermida, P., & Tena-Sánchez, J. (2015). Field evidence of social influence in the expression of political preferences: The case of secessionists flags in Barcelona. PLoS ONE, 10(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0125085

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