Field Evidence of Social Influence in the Expression of Political Preferences. the Case of Secessionist Flags in Barcelona

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal 4C KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Jordi TENA-SANCHEZ, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain
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 and windows. Here we present two different studies. 1) During July 2013 we registered the number of flags in 26% of the electoral districts in the city of Barcelona. We find that there is a large dispersion in the density of flags in districts with similar density of pro-independence voters. However, by comparing the moving average to the global mean we find that the density of flags tends to be fostered in electoral districts where there is a clear majority of pro-independence vote, while it is inhibited in the opposite cases. We also show that the distribution of flags in the observed districts deviates significantly from that of an equivalent random distribution. 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 a sub-sample of 82 blocks. We compare the ‘clustering index’ of flags on the facades observed each day to thousands of equivalent random distributions. Again we provide evidence 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 facades located in electoral districts where there is a clear majority of pro-independence vote.