The Methodology

The Global State of Democracy (GSoD) Indices measure aspects of democracy and human rights that are central to societies in which there is public control over decision making and decision makers, and in which there is equality in the exercise of that control.

While some primary data collection is conducted within International IDEA, the majority of the input data for the GSoD Indices are derived from 20 other publicly available data sources, with a total of 157 input variables.

The result is a collection of 1,837,353 data points on 174 countries over the last 48 years, and the Democracy Tracker event updates include hundreds of reports over the past 12 months. But it is also anchored in the subject matter and regional expertise of International IDEA’s staff at our headquarters in Sweden, as well as the work of our colleagues in Belgium, Ethiopia, Fiji, Nepal, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Sierra Leone and Tunisia, and many more offices around the world. More than just keeping an ear to the ground, our staff are involved in the day-to-day work of building, protecting and expanding the work of democratic institutions around the world.

This year, we are proud to release a revised conceptual framework that organizes these data points into a hierarchical framework based on four core categories of democratic performance:

  • Representation (representative government),
  • Rights (a respect for human rights),
  • Participation (public participation) and,
  • for the first time, a specific category dedicated to the Rule of Law.

Below the four categories are factors (such as Credible Elections or Judicial Independence), several of which make up the categories. Finally, at the lowest level are specific indicators or sub-factors (such as Freedom of Expression or Social Group Equality).

Each index is scaled to range from 0 to 1, with 1 being the most democratic; the boundaries are set by the best and worst observed values across all countries and years.

The GSoD Indices do not include a singular value for democratic quality. Their primary utility is found in the specific categories, which can be used to track progress over time in specific areas of democratic performance within countries and to compare between them.

This year, we have included annual global rankings of country performance for each of the categories of democratic performance—our top-level indices. We also classify countries as high-performing (at least 0.7), mid-range performing (0.4 to 0.69) or low-performing (0.39 and below) in each index.

The focus on category-level performance (rather than on something like regime types) allows for a more nuanced understanding of where democracy is thriving and where it is suffering. It also shifts the focus from the broad idea of democracy generally to specific and narrower aspects of democracy, which are more appropriate to target for reform and intervention.[6]

  • All rankings are available as Annex B (in print) and in the online version of the Report.