FAQs

What do the indices measure?

International IDEA’s new Global State of Democracy indices measure different aspects of democracy for the period 1975 to 2015 in 155 countries across the world. The indices measure five main attributes of democracy, which contains a total of sixteen subattributes. 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 public administration: absence of corruption, predictable enforcement
  • Participatory engagement: civil society participation, electoral participation, direct democracy, subnational elections

For more information see the 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 sixteen sub-attributes, 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 (1975-2015), 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.

Where can I find more information about the 98 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 in 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 indictors 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. 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 14 different data sources.

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, i.e. they do not produce and overall ‘democracy’ score per country. It does 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 therefore allow for the identification of trends, revealing significant information about the global state of democracy. While the aggregated indices will not present data at the country level, those interested in detailed country level data will be able to access the original data sources.

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.

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.

Do you exclude certain countries from the indices? Why?

The Global State of Democracy data set only includes country-year data for 155 countries, which have at least one million inhabitants. This has been done due to the uneven availability of data on countries with less than one million people.

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. 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 you classify regimes (i.e. authoritarian, hybrid, flawed democracy, full democracy)?

The Global State of Democracy indices do not provide regime classifications and are not designed to create crisp distinctions between regimes. Instead of regimes typology, the indices offer nuanced distinctions in the form of interval scale measurement running from 0 to 1.  There is no clear method of converting the Global State of Democracy indices’ interval scale measurements into ordinal regime categories. In addition, International IDEA’s approach to democracy measurement is based on the notion that the more the principles of popular control over decision-makers and political equality of those who exercise that control are fulfilled, the more democratic a political system is. This achievement is conceived as a matter of degree rather than an either/or matter.

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 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 or dialogue in the spirit of advancing 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. For more information users are advised to read The Global State of Democracy Indices Methodology: Conceptualization and Measurement Framework

Are there any cautionary notes regarding the data?

Caution should be exercised when drawing conclusions on small dips in some of the indices for the period 2013–15 for democracies in North America and North and West Europe, where the scores for some indicators using data from the V-Dem expert survey have tended to be dragged down towards the global mean for methodological rather than substantial reasons. More details about the cautionary notes can be found in The Global State of Democracy Indices Methodology: Conceptualization and Measurement Framework.

Peru’s Representative Government score incorrectly dips to 0 between 1996 and 1999. This stems from an error in V-Dem’s Electoral Regime Index, which is used in the construction of the Representative Government attribute. The indicator incorrectly codes Peru as having a non-electoral regime between 1996 and 1999, despite no interruptions in elections during this time.

Within the Regional Organizations score, there is an issue with the Inclusive Suffrage subattribute, which has lead to scores being depressed. This only affects Inclusive Suffrage within Regional Organizations and does not affect the other subattributes or attributes.

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!