Democracy Index Reports US Democracy in Decline under Trump

October 2nd, 2018 - by admin

The World Economic Forum & The Economist Intelligence Unit – 2018-10-02 00:00:58

The World’s Most Democratic Countries, According to the Economist
Briony Harris / The World Economic Forum

(February 2, 2018) — Nordic countries have topped the list of this year’s Democracy Index 2017, taking four out of five of the top spots. Norway came out top, closely followed by Iceland and Sweden.

New Zealand was the only non-Nordic country to feature in the top 5, building on its strong democratic history, having been the first country in the world to allow women to vote in 1893.

Gambia was given a special mention for being a “star performer” and was upgraded from being an “authoritarian regime” to a “hybrid regime”. It rose rapidly up the rankings after its first-ever democratic transfer of power and the ousting of its long-standing dictator President Yahya Jammeh.

However, despite these highlights, the overall report is not positive about the world’s progress towards creating freer and fairer societies.

In fact, the index shows the worst decline in global democracy since the financial crisis of 2010-11, with freedom of expression being of particular concern.

The report looks at various democratic measures in more than 165 states and then classifies each country as full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.

Although almost half of the world’s population lives in a democracy of some sort, only 4.5% reside in a full democracy. That is down from 8.9% in 2015, largely due to the US being demoted from a full democracy to a flawed democracy.

The US’s declining status is primarily due to a significant fall in people’s trust in the functioning of public institutions, a trend that was well established before the election of President Donald Trump. Other Western countries to fall into the “flawed democracy” category include France and Italy.

Meanwhile around one-third of the world’s population lives under authoritarian rule.

Various aspects of a democracy are assessed, including each country’s electoral process, civil liberties the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.

The lack of political participation has been especially thorny for developed countries in recent years, and a survey by Pew Research revealed a disjuncture between the high levels of public support for democracy across the globe and deep popular disappointment with the functioning of those democratic systems.

That, in turn, has led to the rise of populism and the ousting of a number of mainstream parties across Europe. But while 2016 was notable for the rise of the populist parties, 2017 was defined by a backlash against populism, the report notes.

Perhaps that backlash might prompt a greater commitment to political participation in 2018 and see countries scoring more highly on the Democracy Index once again.

Democracy Is Under Threat Globally — Even in the US
Darin Graham /

(February 2, 2018) — The Democracy Index looks at governments around the world and tracks elections, politics, culture and civil rights. This year’s report, found that there are only 19 full democracies on the planet.

The report concluded that nearly a third live under authoritarian rule, a large amount of those in China. The index assessed 89 countries and all received lower scores than they had last year.

Top 10 Most Democratic Countries in the World

1 Norway

2 Iceland

3 Sweden

4 New Zealand

5 Denmark

=6 Canada

=6 Ireland

8 Australia

=9 Switzerland

=9 Finland

For the seventh year in a row, Norway remains the most democratic nation, while Western Europe accounts for 14 of the 19 full democracies.

However, the region’s score slipped slightly to an average of 8.38 out of 10. The Spanish government’s attempt to overturn Catalonia’s Independence referendum in October 2017 caused the nation’s score to drop by 0.22 points, just 0.08 points from the ‘flawed democracy’ category.

The most impressive performer of 2017 is the Gambia.

The country welcomed its first-ever democratic government last year after 22 years of rule by dictator, Yahya Jammeh. The Gambia’s score improved by 2.91 and is upgraded to a “hybrid regime” from an “authoritarian regime” and moved up 30 places in the rankings.

The biggest drop came from Indonesia, which fell from 48th to 68th, while Venezuela declined into the ‘authoritarian regime’ category this year.

The United States remained in the ‘flawed democracy’ threshold, to which it dropped in 2016 after a serious decline in public trust, the Economist said.

Overall, across the world, the sad reality is that democratic norms are slipping, according to the figures. Things that are being affected include declining trust in institutions, erosion of civil liberties and curbs on freedom of speech.

The report read:
The state in many countries plays a prominent role in curtailing freedom of the media and of expression.

Governments, in democratic as well as authoritarian countries, are deploying defamation laws, prevention of terrorism laws, blasphemy and “hate speech” laws to curb freedom of expression and stymie media freedom.

Among the most authoritarian nations in the world are places like North Korea, Syria and Chad.

The authors however, did find some reason for hope:
If 2016 was notable for the populist insurgency against mainstream political parties and politicians in the developed democracies of Europe and North America, 2017 was defined by a backlash against populism.

Among the examples they include: a grassroots effort to reverse Brexit and opposition to Trump.

Democracy Index 2017: Free Speech under Attack
The Economist Intelligence Unit

Global democracy has declined significantly over the last year, according to the latest edition of the Democracy Index. The Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide. This year’s report includes a special focus on how media freedom and freedom of expression are faring in every region.

Democracy Index 2016
The Economist Intelligence Unit

According to the 2016 Democracy Index almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies of some sort, but the number of “full democracies” has declined from 20 in 2015 to 19 in 2016. The US has been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” because of a further erosion of trust in government and elected officials there.

The “democratic recession” worsened in 2016, when no region experienced an improvement in its average score and almost twice as many countries (72) recorded a decline in their total score as recorded an improvement (38). Eastern Europe experienced the most severe regression. The 2016 Democracy Index report, Revenge of the “deplorables,” examines the deep roots of today’s crisis of democracy in the developed world, and looks at how democracy fared in every region.

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In 2017, America Was Downgraded to a ‘Flawed Democracy’
Jessica Brown /

(January 25, 2017) — Not to kick the country while it’s down, but the US has just been downgraded from a ‘full democracy’ to a ‘flawed democracy’.

This is according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2016 Democracy Index. In 2015, it states, the number of ‘full’ democracies was 20, but now it has fallen to 19 — thanks to the US.

The country’s score fell to 7.98 in 2016 from 8.05 in 2015, and anything under 8.00 is not a ‘full democracy’. This, the Unit states, is ‘because of a further erosion of trust in government and elected officials there’.

The Economist writes:
The downgrade was not a consequence of Donald Trump. Rather, it was caused by the same factors that led Mr. Trump to the White House: a continued erosion of trust in government and elected officials.

The index measures data gathered from global surveys, and looks specifically at: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.

In at number one is Norway, with an impressive score of 9.93 out of 10, and North Korea ranks at the bottom.

Britain’s score increased from 2015 to 2016, due to the high 72% turnout for the EU referendum. Well, at least one good thing came from that.

The Best And Worst Countries For Democracy
Niall McCarthy / Statista

(February 2, 2018) — Across the world, 49.3 percent of people live in some form of democracy with only 4.5 percent living in full democracies. That’s according to a new study spanning 165 countries conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit. 89 nations saw their democracy score fall compared to last year with only 27 improving and the rest stagnating.

The research was based on criteria including civil liberties, the electoral process and pluralism, government functionality, political participation and political culture with the countries rated on a 0 to 10 scale.

Northern Europe leads the way for democracy with Norway recording the highest score, 9.87. Iceland came second with 9.58 while Sweden was third with 9.39. In the same study last year, the US was downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” and this year, it only comes 21st with a score of 7.98.

North Korea comes last, scoring 1.08 out of 10 while Chad and Syria complete the bottom three. Saudi Arabia is also present on the list of the world’s 10 worst democracies despite the fact that the US and the UK have sold it billions of dollars worth of weapons. It comes joint 159th with Tajikistan with both countries scoring 1.93 out of 10.

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