What do the indices measure?

International IDEA’s new Global State of Democracy indices measure 29 aspects of democracy for the period 1975 to 2019 in 163 countries across the world. The indices are divided into five main attributes of democracy, which contain a total of sixteen subattributes and eight sub-components, for a total of 29 aspects of democracy, of which 28 have a score from 0 to 1. The five attributes and sixteen subattributes are:

  • Representative Government: Clean Elections, Inclusive Suffrage, Free Political Parties, Elected Government
  • Fundamental Rights: Access to Justice, Civil Liberties, Social Rights and Equality
  • Checks on Government: Effective Parliament, Judicial Independence, Media Integrity
  • Impartial Administration: Absence of Corruption, Predictable Enforcement
  • Participatory Engagement: Civil Society Participation, Electoral Participation, Direct Democracy, Local Democracy

For more information see the About page or The Global State of Democracy Indices Methodology: Conceptualization and Measurement Framework, available in the Data set and Resources section of this website.

What is the difference between International IDEA's Global State of Democracy Indices and other democracy measures from other organizations?

Conceptually, the Global State of Democracy Indices differ from other measurements of democracy because they are rooted in International IDEA’s broad understanding of democracy as popular control over public decision-making and political equality. The two principles are in turn measured through five main attributes of democracy with a total of 16 subattributes, rather than a single index of democracy.

Technically, the Global State of Democracy Indices differ from other measurements in their large coverage of country—years (1975-2019), the variety of different types of sources, the availability of uncertainty estimates and the provision of scores over a broad range of attributes rather than a collapsed democracy score.

For more detailed information on specific differences to other measurements, see Section 4, ‘The Global State of Democracy Indices in comparison with extant measures’ in The Global State of Democracy Indices Methodology: Conceptualization and Measurement Framework.

How can the Global State Democracy Indices be used?

The Indices are used by policy-makers, analysts, scholars, journalists and civil society organisations around the world to assess and compare the quality of democracy. For example, International IDEA, transnational advocacy organisations and research institutes employ the indicators to measure the extent to which states have built “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions”. This objective belongs to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the member states of the United Nations  in 2015.

Organisations concerned with democracy and development assistance use the indicators to identify priority countries and areas for policy interventions and benchmarks to assess the impact of their assistance. The data enable civil society organisations and media outlets to monitor the democratic performance of governments by comparing their government with other governments.

The Global State of Democracy Indices are the evidence base for International IDEAs flagship publication The Global State of Democracy. Drawing on the Global State of Democracy indices, rigorous comparative research and fact-based and peer-reviewed analysis, this report explores the challenges and opportunities facing democracy globally and regionally. It also provides recommendations to inform policy interventions.  International IDEA also produces short information briefs through The Global State of Democracy (GSoD) In Focus series, which applies the GSoD Indices data to current issues, providing evidence-based analysis and insights into the contemporary democracy debate.

Where can I find more information about the 116 indicators used in the construction of the indices?

For quick references users can find a comprehensive list of all indicators used in the construction of the Global State of Democracy Indices on the About page or  Annex B and Annex C of The Global State of Democracy Indices Methodology: Conceptualization and Measurement Framework.  We also recommend that users consult the section Measuring the global state of democracy, to fully understand how the indicators are conceptually linked and the aggregation procedures used to develop the attributes and subattributes. 

Did International IDEA collect the data included in the Global State of Democracy Indices?

No primary data collection was carried out by International IDEA, although we do use International IDEA’s Voter Turnout Database, for data on voter turnout. All data comes from existing data sets. The data include expert surveys, standards-based coding by research groups and analysts, observational data and composite measures from a total of 11 different data sources. 70% of the indicators used come from the Varieties of Democracy dataset.

Does the Global State of Democracy publication and its Indices rank countries?

The Global State of Democracy Indices are not intended to be a ranking instrument, as they do not produce a single ‘democracy’ score per country. They do provide scores for the different dimensions of democracy (attributes and subattributes), which allow countries to be compared to each other and other regions within these dimensions. The indices allow for a more nuanced analysis of the quality and performance of democracy and its various aspects over time. 

Where can I obtain the raw data for the Global State of Democracy Indices?

Any interested party has full and free access to the country-level data for all indices. This data can be downloaded from the Data set and Resources section of this website. The 2020 version of the full data set containing the GSoD indices up to 2019 is available for download in .csv, .xlsx and .dta formats.

Why is there no single ‘Democracy score’?

The Global State of Democracy Indices are built upon International IDEA’s broad understanding of democracy as popular control over public decision-making and political equality. These principles can be achieved and organized in a variety of ways, and the principles can be fulfilled to varying degrees. This perspective has informed and influenced the development of a measurement framework that provides users with more nuanced information through multiple indices rather than a single index that collapses all the attributes into a single score. International IDEA also believes that this is more useful for policy-makers, which are the main target audience for the GSoD Indices. They often need more nuanced and more in-depth assessments to guide their programme interventions and identify specific areas for reform.

Do the Global State of Democracy Indices identify democracies and autocracies?

Yes, the Indices distinguish between democratic and non-democratic political regimes, not least for normative reasons. Most states of the world now declare themselves democracies, but the practice of political rule in some countries strongly contradicts internationally codified norms of human rights and common notions of democracy. Recognizing such political regimes as democracies would ignore and disrespect the normative substance of democracy. Since the GSoD Indices reflect core democratic norms, they also allow users to assess whether a political regime has incorporated these norms or not.

These considerations have led International IDEA to develop criteria that allow to classify political regimes based on the GSoD  Indices. This classification distinguishes between three broad regime types: democracies, hybrid regimes and non-democracies.

International IDEA’s regime classification draws heavily on the Representative Government attribute of the GSoD Indices, which can be viewed as the most essential and least controversial component of democracy. This attribute measures the integrity of elections, the inclusiveness of voting rights, the extent to which political parties are free to campaign for political office and the extent to which national representative government offices are filled through elections.

  • To be classified as a democracy, a country must have at least a score of 0.35 on this attribute. Additionally, the country must have minimally competitive multiparty elections for its legislature and executive. To determine this, International IDEA relies on the Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy’s (LIED) competition indicator, which is one of the data sources used to measure Representative Government.
  • International IDEA defines hybrid regimes as combining “elements of authoritarianism with democracy (…). These [regimes] often adopt the formal characteristics of democracy (while allowing little real competition for power) with weak respect for basic political and civil rights” (International IDEA Strategy 2018-2022). Countries are classified as hybrid regimes if they score at least 0.35 on Representative Government, but lack competitive elections.
  • Non-democratic regimes include autocracies, authoritarian regimes, one-party rule, military regimes, authoritarian monarchies and failed states or war-torn, conflict-ravaged countries without a centralized monopoly on the use of force. Political regimes that score below 0.35 on Representative Government and which do not have competitive elections are classified as non-democratic.

These regime classifications are useful for a quick picture of the state of democracy in a given country and allow users to see the timeline of democratic development across the world. However, these classifications take a more narrow approach to analyzing democracy and should not be used as the sole tool of analysis. Users should also analyze democratic trends and performance levels across all of the attributes and sub attributes of the GSoD Indices for a more nuanced picture of democratic performance.

The list of countries classified by political regime type are found in each of the regional chapters of the Global State of Democracy Report 2019.

Why is the Representative Government the main attribute used to classify political regimes?

The Representative Government attribute of the GSoD Indices, measures free and equal access to political power. Of the five attributes of democracy outlined by the Global State of Democracy indices, Representative Government is arguably the most essential as it emphasizes contested and inclusive popular elections for legislative and directly or indirectly elected executives. Almost all conceptions of democracy include these features. This is a narrower conception of democracy than the broader GSoD framework, and as such all analysis should complement the regime classification with analysis of the other attributes of the GSoD Indices.

Do you exclude certain countries from the Indices? Why?

The Global State of Democracy data set only includes country—year data for countries, which have at least one million inhabitants, from 1975. This has been done due to the uneven availability of data on countries with less than one million people. Four smaller countries - Barbados, Cape Verde, Iceland and Luxembourg - have been added.  The former two are IDEA Member States, and the latter two are OECD Member States. Including these states ensures full coverage of the two organizations, facilitating comparisons.  The total number of countries covered for the period 1975-2019 are 163.

Why do the Global State of Democracy indices not go further back in time than 1975?

The year 1975 was chosen to cover the time period since the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights took effect in 1976. These two sets of international norms overlap with most of the norms and values on which the GSoD Indices are based. This period also covers the commonly referred to “third wave of democratization” which serves as a common reference point for democratic trends. In addition, from a data perspective, there is more reliable and relevant high quality data available from 1975 onwards.

Do the Global State of Democracy Indices promote a Western model of liberal democracy?

International IDEA’s broad conception of democracy draws on various understandings of democracy generally known as electoral democracy, liberal democracy, social democracy or participatory democracy. These notions are reflected in the attributes, subattributes and indicators constituting the GSoD Indices. International IDEA uses the electoral notion of democracy to distinguish democracies from hybrid regimes and non-democracies. By rejecting a single democracy index, International IDEA also refrains from favoring liberal democracy over other models of democracy. Rather, the GSoD Indices consider different ideas and realizations of democracy as potentially complementary, respecting the legitimate diversity of existing democracies. More information about how the GSoD framework intersects with popular conceptions of democracy is available in Annex A of the methodology document.

What do the Global State of Democracy indices say about democracy in my country?

Information about country—level data in the Global State of Democracy indices can be explored from the Indices database and the full data set can be downloaded from the Data set and resources section of the website. 

The Global State of Democracy publication contains good practice examples as well as an analysis of challenges on a selected number of countries, including appropriate case studies. For more information, please visit the Global State of Democracy publication.

What does a score of, for example, 0.65 in the GSoD Indices say about democracy in a country?

The Indices assess the state of democracy in numbers ranging from 0 (lowest achievement) to 1 (highest achievement).  A score of 0 refers to the worst performance in the entire sample of country–years covered by a particular indicator, while a score of 1 refers to the best country–year performance in the sample. This means that a score of, for example, 0.65 for country x in year 2018 on Predictable Enforcement ranks this country’s performance relative to the performance of all other 162 countries in Predictable Enforcement during the period from 1975 to 2018.

Thus, the score allows for precise and fine-grained comparisons between countries and also between different years for one country. A score of 0.65 would show that the country performs better than the average, but below countries with high levels of Predictable Enforcement.

To simplify the interpretation of the scores, International IDEA distinguishes three levels of performance for all attributes and subattributes: high, mid-range and low. Scores above 0.7 are classified as high (colour-coded in green in the country profiles), scores ranging between 0.4 and 0.7 are classified as mid-range (colour-coded in yellow), and scores below 0.4 are classified as low (colour-coded in red). A score of 0.65 would thus mean a mid-range performance on Predictable Enforcement.

Both 0.4 and 0.7 are absolute thresholds rather than percentiles distinguishing equally sized groups of countries. Such absolute thresholds capture the idea of distinct, crisp categories of performance more appropriately and make a country’s assessment less dependent on the performance of other countries.

What do the Global State of Democracy Indices scores for my country mean for me as a citizen?

The Global State of Democracy indices provide country scores in the form of snapshots per year or over time (since 1975) in relation to those key attributes the indices measure. In this way, the indices provide factual data on the situation of representative government, fundamental rights, checks and balances, impartial administration and participatory engagement. This can be used by citizens and policy makers alike as a key information source on democracy for advocacy purposes, dialogue or democratic reform programmes in the spirit of advancing, strengthening or safeguarding democracy.

How should I analyze the data?

When looking at a particular country or region it is very important to also compare with the regional and global average. This will give you the context necessary to fully understand the scores. Users should also refrain from making cross attribute comparisons. The Global State of Democracy indices were designed to capture several conceptually distinct attributes. Because of this a score on one attribute is not directly comparable to a score on another attribute. For more information users are advised to read The Global State of Democracy Indices Methodology: Conceptualization and Measurement Framework

What are confidence intervals and how do I use them?

For most GSoD Indices, the yearly scores for each country are accompanied by uncertainty estimates. These uncertainty estimates are in the form of confidence intervals (margins of error) and reflect the statistically likely  range  for  the  country–year  index  scores  based  on  the  indicators  used. The GSoD Indices confidence levels refer to one standard deviation below and above the estimated  score.  This  means  that  about  68  per  cent  of  the  ‘true’  values  would  be found within these intervals. These confidence intervals allow users to analyze both between-country differences in particular years and within-country differences over time.

What this means is illustrated by the graph below. This graph shows the scores and confidence intervals for selected European countries on the GSoD Attribute Representative Government in 2018.



The graph indicates the extent to which confidence intervals for index scores can overlap between countries with different scores. For example, Serbia scored 0.57 on Representative Government in 2018, but the confidence interval for this score ranges between 0.50 and 0.63.  These upper and lower bounds are marked by the red dashed lines in the graph above. Thus, we have a 68 percent certainty that Serbia’s correct or valid score on Representative Government is within this range. Although, for example, Hungary scores 0.61 on Representative Government, almost 0.04 points better than Serbia, we can not be certain that its score is significantly different from Serbia’s score because the confidence intervals for the two countries overlap.

Confidence intervals also help assessing the extent of changes over time, both within countries comparisons and between countries. The figure below illustrates the scores and related confidence intervals for Checks on Government in Peru and Venezuela from 1990 to 2018.



In the first years of the period, the confidence bounds for the two countries overlap. Thus, even though the score for Venezuela is higher in 1990 than Peru’s score, the difference is not significant. Around 2000, Peru’s score improves while Venezuela’s score declines, but the differences between the two countries are not significant. From about 2002, Peru scores significantly better than Venezuela. There seem to be some fluctuations in Peru after 2002, but these changes are not significant, as indicated by the overlapping confidence intervals for the various years. However, the scores for the level of Checks on Government in Peru between 1992 and 2000 are significantly lower in the intermediate period compared to the years before and after. Likewise, the data indicate that Venezuela experienced two significant declines: the scores for Checks on Government for the intermediate period (around 1999 to 2004) were significantly lower than the scores for the previous period, and significantly higher than those for the subsequent period. The small bump between 2010 and 2013 does not constitute a significant change.

What are significant advances and declines?

A significant change is when a country has a change in scores on one of the components of the GSoD indices that goes beyond the bounds of the confidence intervals over a given time period. If the change is positive it is a significant advance and if it is negative it is a significant decline. Generally, the GSoD initiative looks at significant advances and declines at a five year interval although sometimes analysis is done at other interval levels. This analysis is useful for analyzing global developments by looking at how countries are developing, rather than the average scores of the Indices, which tend to drown out smaller developments at the country level. In the figure below you can see an example of such analysis. In this graph you can see the total number of countries with advances or declines on Clean Elections across a five year period. The total number of advancers and decliners for 2018 looks at the significant changes from 2013 to 2018. The trend below is a worrying one, with more countries declining than advancing from 2013 to 2018.


Are there any cautionary notes regarding the data?

Due to missing data, the GSoDI do not feature aggregate scores for a few countries and years (0.6 per cent of the total sum of country-year scores for the GSoDI aspects). Fortunately only six scores are missing in 2018 (three on the Electoral Participation and three on the Local Democracy subattribute). A detailed table of missing values is included in the Technical Procedures Guide.

Of the 116 indicators forming the GSoDI data set, 80 come from the Varieties of Democracy project (V-Dem), a large-scale expert survey measuring democracy. The V-Dem methodology assumes five or more experts to rate these indicators. However, for a few countries and indicators V-Dem has failed to achieve this target for the period since 2013. According to the V-Dem Codebook, “this at times result in significant changes in point estimates as a consequence of self-selected attrition of Country Experts, rather than actual changes in the country” (Coppedge, M. et al., V-Dem Dataset v 10, 2020, p. 25).

These problems also affect the GSoD Indices, although their impact is limited since all GSoD Indices are based on several indicators, including other source data, and the GSoD aggregation procedure reduces the influence of deviating scores. Nevertheless, caution should be applied in analyzing the following countries: United Arab Emirates, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Haiti, Bahrain. These countries have relatively high shares of V-Dem indicators coded by less than four experts with larger weights within aggregate GSoD indicators. Of the GSoDI subattributes, Local Democracy and Independent Judiciary are most affected by V-Dem indicators with few coders. Detailed information on the numbers of coders per country, year and variable can be obtained from V-Dem.

Caution is required when using the following GSoD indicators and country-year scores:

  • Libya: scores for Free Political Parties, Freedom of Association and Assembly, and Checks on Government are implausibly high for the years 2011-2018, reflecting sudden high increases in the source indicators.

Where can I find more information on how Global State of Democracy indices were constructed?

The following resources are available for those interested in more information on how we constructed the Global State of Democracy indices:

I have more questions about the Global State of Democracy indices, who should I contact?

If you have more questions about the indices you can contact us by email at GSoD.indices@idea.int. We look forward to hearing from you!