INDEPENDENCE AND FLAGS IN BARCELONA, A FIELD OBSERVATION

Recently, the article entitled Field Evidence of Social Influence in the Expression of Political Preferences: The Case of Secessionists Flags in Barcelona has been published in PLOS ONE. Catalan independence is a hot issue in Spanish media and this work, written among others by Antonio Parravano (former IESA-CSIC researcher), tries to explain how it is expressed by people living in Barcelona. Authors also explain whether this behaviour is affected by political events or if the social influence determines other’s political expression.

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. Authors 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. Parravano et al. 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 authors observed the position at balcony resolution of the flags displayed in the facades of a sub-sample of 82 blocks. They compare the ‘clustering index’ of flags on the facades observed each day to thousands of equivalent random distributions. Again researchers provide evidence that successive hangings of flags are not independent events but that a local influence mechanism is favoring their clustering. Authors 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.

Download this open-access article: Parravano A, Noguera JA, 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): e0125085. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0125085

Original picture «Estelada en carrer Radas» by Gerard Girbes Berges, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. Follow him on Flickr.

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