About the GSoD Indices
The Global State of Democracy Indices (GSoD Indices) measure democratic trends at the country, regional and global levels across a broad range of different categories of democracy in the period 1975–2022. They do not provide a single index of democracy.
They include data for 174 countries across the globe, and are based on 157 individual indicators devised by various scholars and organizations using different types of sources: expert surveys, standards-based coding by research groups and analysts, observational data and composite measures. The Varieties of Democracy project contributes almost half of the indicators used in the Global State of Democracies Indices. There are 20 data sources in all.
The GSoD indices consist of category and factor scores per country per year for the period 1975–2022. All scoring runs from 0 to 1, with 0 representing the lowest achievement in the whole sample and 1 the highest.
For more information and to download the data, please see the GSoD Indices Methodology and Codebook in the Data set and Resources section below.
Answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.
Overview of the Indices
Democracy is conceptualized as popular control over public decision-making and decision-makers, and equality of respect and voice between citizens in the exercise of that control. These principles have been translated into four top-level indices (categories) that are constructed from 17 second-level indices (factors). Two of the factors are constructed from component indices at a lower level aggregation.
The Representation category emphasizes contested and inclusive popular elections for legislative and executive offices. This category distinguishes among six factors. Five of them (Credible Elections, Free Political Parties, Elected Government, Effective Parliament, and Local Democracy) have been aggregated into a contestation index using an item response theory measurement model. The Representation index is obtained by multiplying the contestation index by the sixth factor, Inclusive Suffrage.
The Credible Elections factor denotes the extent to which elections for national, representative political office are free from irregularities. All the selected indicators tap into the quality of elections. One of the V-Dem indicators and the LIED indicator reflect the presence of free elections more generally, whereas the other V-Dem indicators and those from BTI and Freedom House capture more specific aspects of elections, including the fairness of the electoral laws, EMB autonomy and capacity, government intimidation and other irregularities. The ten indicators have been aggregated into the Credible Elections factor using an item response theory measurement model.
The Inclusive Suffrage factor denotes the extent to which adult citizens have equal and universal passive and active voting rights.
Free Political Parties
The Free Political Parties factor denotes the extent to which political parties are free to form and campaign for political office. Six indicators, partly based on expert surveys and partly in-house coded, are used to measure how free political parties are. All of them reflect whether political parties generally, and opposition parties in particular, are allowed to organize freely and run in elections. The six indicators have been aggregated into the Free Political Parties factor using an item response theory measurement model.
The Elected Government factor denotes the extent to which national, governing offices are filled through elections. It is operationalized using nine indicators from BRRD, BTI, Freedom House, LIED, Polity and V-Dem. All the indicators have a rather formal focus, which means that they do not assess the quality of elections or fully capture the extent to which reserved domains and undue influence from non-elected groups might in practice restrict elected officials’ effective power to govern. The nine indicators were aggregated into the Elected Government factor using an item response theory measurement model.
The Effective Parliament factor denotes the extent to which the legislature is capable of overseeing the executive. It includes three indicators from the V-Dem experts survey that tap fairly directly into the effectiveness of parliament. Another V-Dem indicator on executive oversight and the executive constraints indicator from Polity are included as they capture relevant aspects of institutional representation not covered by other factors. The five indicators were aggregated into the Effective Parliament factor using an item response theory measurement model.
V-Dem is also the only provider of a comprehensive, cross-national data set on subnational elections. The local government index indicates whether the local government is elected and whether it is empowered in relation to the central government, while another indicator assesses the freedom and fairness of subnational elections.
Rights in the form of liberal and social rights support both fair representation and the vertical mechanism of accountability that the second category seeks to achieve. This category is composed of four factors: Access to Justice, Civil Liberties, Basic Welfare, and Political Equality. The four factors were aggregated into the Rights index using a Bayesian factor analysis measurement model.
Access to Justice
The Access to Justice factor denotes the extent to which the legal system is fair (i.e., citizens are not subject to arbitrary arrest or detention and have the right to be under the jurisdiction of, and to seek redress from, competent, independent and impartial tribunals without undue delay). It comprises four expert coded variables (V-Dem) that go beyond the independence of courts. The V-Dem indicators are supplemented with an in-house coded CLD measure of the right to a fair trial, a measure of the effective protection of civil rights from BTI, and a measure of due process rights from FITW. The seven indicators were aggregated into the Access to Justice factor using an item response theory measurement model.
The civil liberties factor denotes the extent to which civil rights and liberties are respected. The five civil liberties subcomponents are Freedom of Expression, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Association and Assembly, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of Movement, each of which reflects core concepts in the human rights literature. The five subcomponents were aggregated into the Civil Liberties factor using a Bayesian factor analysis measurement model.
Freedom of Religion
A separate subcomponent index comprised of two V-Dem general indicators on religious freedom based on expert surveys and two similarly broad in-house coded variables from CLD, CIRIGHTS, and FITW. The five indicators were aggregated into the Freedom of Religion subcomponent using an item response theory measurement model.
Freedom of the Press
The Freedom of the Press subcomponent is built from nine indicators. Seven of these measures come from V-Dem and measure the extent to which the news media are diverse, honest, critical of the government, and free from censorship (from the government or self-imposed). We add to this a broader measure of media freedom from MFD, and a measure of the freedom and independence of the media from FITW. The nine indicators were aggregated into the subcomponent using an item response theory measurement model.
Freedom of Association and Assembly
Ten indicators from five sources are used to measure Freedom of Association and Assembly. Two of them refer directly to freedom of association. One indicator each from V-Dem and FITW focuses on the freedom of peaceful assembly. Two indicators from FITW deal with associational rights for nongovernmental organizations and trade unions. The indicators offered by BTI, CLD, and CIRIGHTS cover freedom of assembly as well as freedom of association, where association refers to both civil society organizations and political parties. A specific CIRIGHTS indicator captures the extent to which workers are entitled to organize and bargain collectively. The ten indicators were aggregated into the subcomponent using an item response theory measurement model.
Freedom of Movement
Freedom of movement was captured by a general, in-house coded indicator from CLD, two specific in-house coded indicators from CIRIGHTS, and in-house coded indicator from FITW, and three, more specific, expert coded indicators from V-Dem that distinguish between foreign and domestic movement and provide assessments of the latter feature for men and women. The seven indicators were aggregated into the subcomponent using an item response theory measurement model.
Freedom of Expression
The Freedom of Expression subcomponent is measured using eleven indicators based on expert surveys from V-Dem and two in-house coded indicators from BTI, CLD, CIRIGHTS, and Freedom House. The questions underlying the BTI, CLD, CIRIGHTS, and some of the Freedom House variables are rather broad, whereas the V-Dem indicators are more specific and refer to the right to openly discuss political issues and express political opinions outside the mass media. Two of them distinguish between freedom of expression for men and for women. Three of the questions from Freedom House (Freedom on the Net) add considerations of the broader information environment to this subcomponent, with particular attention to access to information online. The eleven indicators were aggregated into the subcomponent using an item response theory measurement model.
Basic Welfare denotes the extent to which the material and social supports of democracy (e.g., nutrition, healthcare and education) are available. The provision of basic welfare is measured using a number of standard observable human development indicators: infant mortality rate (CME), life expectancy (WPP), supply of kilocalories per person per day (FAO), literacy rate (UNESCO) and average years of schooling (IHME). In addition, two expert-based indicators from V-Dem were included to assess whether everyone in a given society has access to basic education and health care, and an in-house coded indicator of the extent of the social safety net from BTI was also added. All of these reflect the extent to which the basic needs of the population are being met. The eight indicators were aggregated into the factor using an item response theory measurement model.
The Political Equality factor denotes the extent to which political and social equality between social groups and genders is realized. The two Political Equality subcomponents are Social Group Equality and Gender Equality, both of which reflects core concepts in the human rights literature.
The two subcomponents were aggregated into the Political Equality factor using a Bayesian factor analysis measurement model.
The gender equality subcomponent is measured through two expert-coded indicators from V-Dem, on power distribution by gender and female participation in civil society organizations, and two observational indicators, on the ratio of female to male mean years of schooling (IHME), and the proportion of lower chamber legislators who are female (V-Dem). To this we added an index of exclusion by gender (V-Dem), and in-house coded measures of women’s empowerment (GGGR), and women’s political and economic rights (both from CIRIGHTS). The eight indicators were aggregated into the Gender Equality subcomponent using an item response theory measurement model.
Social Group Equality
Five V-Dem expert-coded indicators and four V-Dem indices, and three in-house coded indicators from FITW (two) and BTI, were used to measure social group equality, the first of the Political Equality subcomponents. Five of the underlying questions ask about social class and identity group inequalities with regard to civil liberties and political power distribution. Four indices provide measures of socio-economic, political, social and urban-rural exclusion. They are supplemented by indicators of equality treatment and political equality from BTI and FITW. The twelve indicators were aggregated into the social group equality subcomponent using an item response theory measurement model.
Rule of Law
Beyond regular elections, the exercise of political power needs to be subject to defined limits and continuous scrutiny and people should be able to live a secure life without the risk of political violence. If there is not integrity in the public administration and judiciary is not independent, executive power is more prone to be abused for private gain and to bias in political decision-making and implementation. The four factors were aggregated into the Rule of Law index using a Bayesian factor analysis measurement model.
The Judicial Independence factor denotes the extent to which the courts are not subject to undue influence from the other branches of government, especially the executive. Since our framework places judicial independence under the category concerning the Rule of Law, it is important to supplement the four judicial independence indicators with two indicators on government compliance with the courts. The eight indicators were aggregated into the Judicial Independence factor using an item response theory measurement model.
Personal Integrity and Security
Personal Integrity and Security denotes the extent to which bodily integrity is respected and people are free from state and non-state political violence. To operationalize personal integrity and security, three indicators were used to capture different types of violations, such as torture and political and extra-judicial disappearances and killings. These indicators come from V-Dem and PTS. The CIRIGHTS Physical Integrity Rights Index was included as a summary measure of the above-mentioned types of human rights violations. The seven indicators were aggregated into the Personal Integrity and Security factor using an item response theory measurement model.
The Predictable Enforcement factor denotes the extent to which the executive and public officials enforce laws in a predictable manner. To measure the related feature of Predictable Enforcement, five expert-coded V-Dem indicators on the executive’s respect for constitutional provisions, the presence of transparent laws with predictable enforcement, and rule-abiding in the public sector, and the practices of appointment in the state administration and armed forces are used. These are complemented by an indicator from ICRG that assesses the strength and expertise of the bureaucracy and an indicator from Freedom House that measures the openness and transparency in government. To round out the measurement of the extent to which the government enforces laws in consistent ways, we added a measure of law and order from ICRG, and measures of administrative capacity and the monopoly on the use of force from BTI. The ten indicators were aggregated into the Predictable Enforcement factor using an item response theory measurement model.
Absence of Corruption
The Absence of Corruption factor denotes the extent to which the executive and the public administration, more broadly, do not abuse their office for personal gain. Four V-Dem indicators explicitly refer to corruption in the government broadly understood, i.e., the executive and public administration more generally (but excluding courts and parliaments). These are used along with another expert-coded but broader indicator of government corruption from ICRG, and in-house coded measures from BTI and Freedom House. The seven indicators have been aggregated into the Absence of Corruption factor using an item response theory measurement model.
Democratic institutions tend to be hollow if not filled by active citizens in connection with and between different kinds of elections. In other words, politically involved citizens are considered an important part of democracy. The more citizens are allowed to participate at all levels of government and make actual use of these opportunities, through participation in dynamic civil society organizations and elections, the more popular control and responsiveness can be achieved. The three factors (Civil Society, Civic Engagement, and Electoral Participation) were aggregated into the Participation index through an item response theory measurement model.
The measurement of Civil Society relies on six indicators. Three of these are V-Dem indicators based on expert surveys that consider the extent to which the legal and political context supports civil society organizations and activities. To these we have added measure of the strength of interest groups and social capital from BTI, and the infrastructurally-focused e-Participation Index from the UN.
The measure of Civic Engagement is constructed from three expert survey indicators of the extent to which people engage in political and non-political associations, and trade unions from V-Dem. We also include an indicator of civil society traditions from BTI.
The turnout of the voting age population in national elections is the single indicator used to capture electoral participation. These observational data are collected by International IDEA, and capture the concept of interest in a direct way and one indicator is therefore sufficient to measure this factor —especially given that there are hardly any feasible alternatives.
Data set and resources
Version 7.1 of the GSoD Indices (with data up to 2022) is available for download in the following file formats:
Version 7.1 was released on 3 July 2023, replacing version 7. This new release includes a small improvement in the calculation of two measures: Civic Engagement and Participation. All other measures remain unchanged from version 7.
Version 7.1 of the data set implements some changes in the conceptual framework, and many changes in variable names. We recommend that users consult the codebook before using the data set. The codebook and methodology are available for download here:
- 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.
If you have more questions about the GSoD Indices you can contact us by email at GSoD.email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Old data sets and background documents
- Previous versions of The Global State of Democracy Indices: Codebook are available here: version 2; version 3; version 4; version 5; version 6. These documents present information about all the variables included in the GSoD indices data set.
- Previous versions of The Global State of Democracy Indices: Methodology are available here: version 1; version 2; version 3; version 4; version 5; version 6. These documents explain the conceptual distinctions, theoretical framework and measurement procedures on which the GSoD Indices are based.
- Previous versions of The Global State of Democracy Indices: Technical Procedures Guide are available here: version 2; version 3; version 4; version 5; version 6. These documents outline the technical steps taken in constructing the GSoD Indices. They were written for readers who want a better understanding of the Indices or for researchers who wish to use and build on the data contained within them. The guide builds upon the GSoD Indices Methodology.
Previous versions of the data set can be downloaded here: