About the Global State of Democracy Initiative
International IDEA launched the Global State of Democracy (GSoD) Initiative in 2016. This Initiative provides evidence-based, balanced analysis and data on the state and quality of democracy for 173 countries across the world. It aims to contribute to the public debate on democracy and inform policy interventions to strengthen democracy. The Initiative currently includes:
Democracy Tracker, a monthly-updated qualitative dataset that monitors the most important democracy and human rights-related developments in 173 countries;
- The Democracy Tracker provides monthly, qualitative data on key events with the potential to impact the state of democracy and human rights in 173 countries. The tool highlights how each event affects specific aspects of democracy and provides users with context-based analysis. Each event report indicates a positive, static, or negative development with regard to democratic performance. Past event reports are available as a searchable and downloadable archive.
- The Democracy Tracker is organized by country profile pages, each of which offers:
- Detailed, context-setting narrative overviews;
- Background fact boxes, which include information on each country’s political system;
- Ratification status of international human rights treaties; and
- Monthly event reports, which describe how specific events impact particular aspects of democracy, as defined by the Global State of Democracy framework.
- The updated, full methodology will be coming in the fall.
Global State of Democracy (GSoD) Indices, an annually-updated quantitative dataset that measures the quality of democracy in 173 countries around the world;
- The GSoD Indices measure performance across a broad range of indicators of democracy, covering 173 countries from 1975 to 2022. The GSoD Indices are built on a theoretical framework that organizes specific measures of aspects of democratic performance into four high-level categories: Representation, Rights, Rule of Law, and Participation. These categories are considered individually and are not combined into a single score for democracy. The GSoD Indices are composite measures that are built from 157 individual indicators collected by other organizations using different types of sources, including expert surveys, standards-based coding by research groups and analysts, and observational data. The GSoD indices include estimated values for 28 indicators (categories and factors) per country per year. All the indicators are scaled to vary between 0 and 1, with 0 representing the lowest achievement in the whole sample and 1 the highest.
- Explore the Codebook and Methodology to learn more about how the GSoD indices were designed and constructed:
- The Global State of Democracy Indices: Codebook, v7, 2023 provides details for all of the variables included in the data set. This document is an essential guide for the use of the data.
- The Global State of Democracy Indices Methodology: Conceptualization and Measurement Framework, v7, 2023, outlines the conceptual distinctions, theoretical framework and measurement procedures on which the GSoD Indices are based. This document has been updated to reflect the changes implemented in version 7 of the data set.
Global State of Democracy (GSoD) reports, including an annual global GSoD report and several In-Focus reports per year:
- The GSoD Report, launched for the first time in 2017, analyses global and regional democratic trends.
- The GSoD In Focus series, initiated in 2018, applies the GSoD Indices data to current issues, providing evidence-based analysis and insights into the contemporary democracy debate.
Democracy Notes, International IDEA’s expert blog on democracy and human rights.
All of our Democracy Tracker event reports and related analyses are based upon our Global State of Democracy conceptual framework. In this framework, democracy is divided into four main categories and several related factors.
Frequently asked questions
International IDEA defines democracy as popular control over public decision-making and decision-makers, and equality between citizens in the exercise of that control. These principles are further defined through a conceptual framework that divides democracy into four main categories, and 17 factors.
- There are many sources of annual data on democratic performance – often with a reporting delay – but the policy community could benefit from more current and focused information and analysis about events to which responses are required. As part of the Global State of Democracy Initiative, International IDEA developed the Democracy Tracker to fill the reporting delay gap and serve as a timely and policy-directed tool for monitoring events and alerting audiences to their potential impacts on democracy and human rights. To that end, the Democracy Tracker covers 21 categories and factors of democratic performance (derived from the Global State of Democracy Indices (GSoDI) framework) across 173 countries, reporting on a monthly basis.
- The Democracy Tracker’s regional experts comprehensively study events and developing trends, using the monthly reports to highlight those that are most relevant for actors who require the most up-to-date country level analysis of how democracy is faring. While its primary audience is policy makers, we think it is useful for the media, researchers, civil society and anyone else who wishes to stay informed.
- The Democracy Tracker does not report on every single event that impacts democracy at the country level, nor does it offer predictions regarding the course of democratization. Reports and classifications do not represent comparisons between countries. Indications of positive, negative or static performance are relative to that country alone.
- The data collection process involves comprehensive collection of online news media items and expert reports and analysis relating to democracy and human rights in each of 173 countries. Coders primarily use two data sources, the subscription-based LexisNexis Newsdesk and the publicly available Global Database of Events, Language and Tone (GDELT), that collect media and expert reporting form around the world. They are supplemented by country-specific data sources and local expert inputs where needed. Wherever possible coders also consult primary sources, including court judgements, legislation and election observation reports.
What is LexisNexis Newsdesk? Newsdesk is a media monitoring product that allows access to reporting from more than 100,000 media outlets, covering 235 countries and regions, and includes content in more than 100 languages. It allows the creation of a number of complex Boolean queries that identify the media reports that are relevant to the aspects of democratic performance and human rights that are covered by the Democracy Tracker. Newsdesk includes both open and licensed content, including subscriptions to the main print sources in many countries. For more information, see here.
- What is GDELT? The Global Database of Events Languages and Tones (GDELT) is a data project that monitors, parses, and classifies news media. The GDELT 2.0 Event Database continuously monitors news media from nearly every country in broadcast, and web formats, in 100 languages. It includes hundreds of millions of event records in over 300 categories and is updated every fifteen minutes. For more information, see here.
Events are selected for reporting on the basis that they signal a significant change in a country’s democratic performance, as defined by the GSoDI conceptual framework. In addition to these, we also report events that signal such a change is very likely in the near future (events to watch), events that are uniquely and egregiously damaging to democracy, such as coups d’état and political assassinations (red flag events), and all national elections. Events that do not meet these conditions are not reported.
Every month, the Democracy Tracker’s landing page includes four critical events, one per region. These events are highlighted for their relative significance that month, in the context of all the region’s events.
- The ‘To Watch’ icon is applied to events that signal a future change in the country’s democratic performance. For the event to be reported, the anticipated change in performance must be significant and expected to materialise within the near future. A hypothetical example of such an event, is the passage of a bill whose provisions, if enacted, would significantly tighten restrictions on freedom of expression in the country in question. Because the impact of these events has not been felt, they are reported with neutral coding.
- The ’Red Flag’ icon is applied to events that are uniquely and egregiously damaging to democracy or human rights. This category of events includes the assassination of national politicians, coups d’état or other unconstitutional regime changes, outbreaks of severe intrastate or interstate hostilities, or reports of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or ethnic cleansing from authoritative sources such as the United Nations. Red Flag events are reported irrespective of whether or not they have changed the status quo or may do so in the future.
The critical importance of elections to democratic governance means that the Democracy Tracker reports all national elections. Election reports contain non-curious, non-judgemental descriptions of the official results and other key data. The neutrality of the election reports means that the impacts of the event are coded as neutral. It is important to note however, that where the coder determines that an aspect of the election marks a significant change in democratic performance, for example in the level of repression, the number of women elected, or other matter of substantive importance, the coder will report this in a separate, conventional event report recording the magnitude of the impacts using the Democracy Tracker’s five-point scale (see the following question).
The impacts of the events are coded with reference to the relevant categories, factors and sub-factors of democratic performance (following the GSoD framework). These indicators are coded at two levels: primary and secondary. In this way, we show which aspects of democracy are principally impacted by the event and which aspects are secondarily impacted. A measure of the magnitude of the impact is then assigned to the indicators using a five-point scale, ranging from exceptionally positive to exceptionally negative.
The country profiles provide readers with an overview of a country's political context so that they understand the background within which new political developments are taking place. The profiles aim to paint a general picture of how the country came to be where it is today, what has happened of import over the last five years, what the main political debates are about, and what to watch in the future.
Democracy Tracker is organized by country pages, with one page dedicated to each country. Each page includes the following information:
- Country profiles: Each country page features a brief that sets out the country’s political context. Amongst other things, the briefs describe recent trends in the annual GSoDI data, relevant socio-political history, politically salient social cleavages, and an outlook on political developments to watch over the near future.
- Basic information boxes: Complementing the narrative text of the country profiles are a series of key data points describing the institutional features of a country’s political system, recent elections, the representation of women in the legislature, and the country’s engagement with the United Nation’s (UN) Universal Periodic Review - a mechanism for reviewing member states’ human rights records.
- Human rights treaty boxes: Users are given a further indication of how countries engage with the international human rights system through summary information on the ratification status of three sets of human rights treaties: the UN’s Core International Human Rights Treaties, the International Labour Organisation’s Fundamental Conventions, and the principal regional human rights treaties.
- Global State of Democracy Indices (GSoDI) boxes: The country pages also feature visualizations of key GSoDI data. Sparkline graphs featured at the top of the country page show the country’s performance on the GSoDI’s four democracy categories (with only the observed variation in the data) over the most recent ten-year period. The trend lines in the main GSoDI box show the full range of possible values in the index regarding the country’s performance on democracy from 1975 to 2022. A spider chart offers the user an overview of the state of democracy in the country, illustrating performance levels across the GSoDI’s 17 factors of democracy. An interactive timeline illustrates the country’s regime classification from 1975 to the year of our most recently published data and allows users to produce a spider chart for any year.
The Global State of Democracy reports are based primarily upon data from the GSoD Indices and Democracy Tracker.
About International IDEA
The Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is an inter-governmental organization that supports sustainable democracy worldwide. Our mission is advancing democracy worldwide, as a universal human aspiration and an enabler of sustainable development, through support to the building, strengthening and safeguarding of democratic political institutions and processes at all levels. We work with local communities, democracy practitioners and partner organizations all over the world. We have global reach with our headquarters located in Stockholm and offices in 18 countries. Go to International IDEA website.
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