How Many People Live in a Political Democracy Today?
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How Many People Live in a Political Democracy Today?

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How Many People Live in a Political Democracy Today?

Governments come in all shapes and sizes, but can ultimately be divided into two broad categories: democracies and autocracies.

Using the Regimes of the World classification system developed by political scientists Anna Lührmann, Marcus Tannenberg, and Staffan Lindberg and data from V-Dem, it’s estimated that 2.3 billion people—about 29% of the global population—lived in a democracy in 2021.

By contrast, 71% of people lived under what can be considered an autocratic regime. In fact, the number of people considered to be living under a type of autocracy is at its highest total in the last three decades.

To see how this split has changed over time, the chart from Our World in Data, which uses data from the aforementioned sources, highlights how many people have lived under political democracies versus autocracies since the 18th century.

Forms of Political Democracies and Autocracies

First, let’s look at the four types of political regimes shown in the chart, based on criteria from the classifications of Lührmann et al. (2018):

  • Liberal democracies: Judicial and legislative branches have oversight of the chief executive, rule of law, and individual liberties.
  • Electoral democracies: Hold multiparty de-facto elections that are free and fair, have an elected executive, and institutional democratic freedoms such as voting rights, clean elections, and freedom of expression.
  • Electoral autocracies: Hold de-facto elections; democratic standards are lacking and irregular.
  • Closed autocracies: No elections are held for the chief executive or no meaningful competition is present.

It’s important to note that this is a fairly stringent and specific classification system. Many countries consider themselves an electoral democracy or strive to appear as one, but are still considered autocratic based on this criteria.

Using this categorization scheme, 34 countries can be considered liberal democracies, 55 are electoral democracies, 60 are electoral autocracies, and 30 are closed autocracies as of early 2022.

Over 200 Years of People Living in a Political Democracy

Many political systems around the world have made clear transitions in the last two centuries, but even in the last decade they’ve shifted substantially.

In 2010, the global population was split about 50/50 between democratic and autocratic regimes. Since then, there has been a clear trend towards autocratization.

Year
% Democracy
% Autocracy
202129.3%70.7%
201050.4%49.6%
200053.6%46.4%
199041.4%58.6%
198034.1%65.9%
197034.9%65.1%
196035.2%64.8%
195018.1%81.9%
194010.4%89.6%
193017.9%82.1%
192012.0%88.0%
19103.7%96.3%
19003.6%96.4%
18903.5%96.5%
18803.5%96.5%
18700.4%99.6%
18600.3%99.7%
18500.2%99.8%
18400.0%100.0%
18300.0%100.0%
18200.0%100.0%
18100.0%100.0%
18000.0%100.0%

Note: Missing regime data not included

Though modern democracies have roots in the 1700s and 1800s in Europe and the United States, governments have only more recently been able to check the boxes of the stringent democratic criteria highlighted above.

According to the data, liberal democracies and electoral democracies only emerged in Switzerland and Australia in the 1850s and in France in the 1870s after the Franco-Prussian war.

Following both World Wars, the number of democracies in the world increased, spreading across Europe, Latin America, and parts of Asia. After the Cold War, countries across Eastern Europe also adopted democracies, with the total populations shown in the table below.

Year
Liberal Democracy
Electoral Democracy
Electoral Autocracy
Closed Autocracy
20211.05B1.25B3.51B2.05B
20101.16B2.34B1.75B1.70B
20001.06B2.22B1.02B1.82B
1990865.52M1.33B999.81M2.12B
1980722.40M796.11M957.93M1.97B
1970632.53M655.49M439.89M1.96B
1960334.08M730.90M528.14M1.43B
1950217.75M239.01M306.07M1.76B
194074.46M156.01M113.89M1.87B
193089.64M274.29M67.96M1.60B
192070.22M152.50M275.10M1.36B
191020.74M41.46M261.16M1.34B
190013.70M40.82M222.36M1.25B
18906.00M40.19M179.48M1.11B
18805.03M38.73M158.42M1.05B
18704.41M0188.65M992.35M
18603.80M083.33M1.08B
18502.38M0113.98M1.03B
18400062.01M1.04B
18300047.54M986.50M
18200037.75M921.85M
18100025.74M847.04M
18000022.00M805.81M

Note: Missing regime data not included

On the flipside, it’s estimated that 5.5 billion people live in autocratic countries.

Electoral autocracies make up the majority of this total, with 3.5 billion people or about 45% of the global population today. Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela are considered electoral autocracies, as well as India since 2019.

Closed autocracies are the second-most common, and in the last decade, the number of closed autocracies rose from 25 to 30 countries.

One report estimates that as much as 20% of European countries are autocratizing as of 2021, including Hungary, Greece, Poland, and Croatia.

Changes in Political Systems

What countries became more autocratic in 2021, and why?

Coups, involving the overthrow of a government in power, played a large role behind the most recent autocratic shifts. Of the five coups that occurred in 2021, four​​—Chad, Mali, Guinea, and Myanmar—became classified as closed autocracies. Meanwhile, Nigeria, Tunisia, and El Salvador became classified as electoral autocracies.

Meanwhile, Austria, Portugal, Ghana, and Trinidad & Tobago shifted from liberal democracies to electoral democracies, as the transparency of laws and enforcement waned.

Moving in the opposite direction, both Armenia and Bolivia started being classified as democracies in 2021.

Current Obstacles

Reinforcing the current shift to autocracies is increasing polarization around the world. Research shows that political polarization is linked with democratic decline. Since 1950, 26 of the 52 instances of countries facing deep polarization saw their democratic systems downgraded.

At the same time, misinformation reinforces polarization. With democratic institutions facing headwinds, it remains unclear if current autocratic trends will continue.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Politics

Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?

There is a clear correlation between trust in government and trust in public institutions, but a few countries buck the trend.

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Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?

In many countries around the world, vast portions of the population do not trust their own government.

Lack of faith in government and politics is nothing new, but in times of uncertainty, that lack of trust can coalesce into movements that challenge the authority of ruling parties and even threaten the stability of nations.

This visualization uses data from the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Monitor to look at how much various populations trust their government and public institutions.

Tracking Trust in Government

Since the beginning of the pandemic, global trust in government has improved by eight percentage points, but that is only a small improvement on an otherwise low score.

At the country level, feelings towards government can vary widely. India, Germany, Netherlands, and Malaysia had the highest government trust levels.

Many of the countries with the lowest levels of trust were located in Latin America. This makes sense, as trust in politicians in this region is almost non-existent. For example, in Colombia, only 4% of the population consider politicians trustworthy. In Argentina, that figure falls to just 3%.

Trust in Public Institutions

Broadly speaking, people trust their public services more than the governments in charge of managing and funding them. This makes sense as civil servants fare much better than politicians and government ministers in trustworthiness.

chart showing global trust in professions. Politicians and government ministers rank the lowest.

As our main chart demonstrates, there is a correlation between faith in government and trust in public institutions. There are clear “high trust” and “low trust” groupings in the countries included in the polling, but there is also a third group that stands out—the countries that have high trust in public institutions, but not in their government. Leading this group is Japan, which has a stark difference in trust between public services and politicians. There are many factors that explain this difference, such as values, corruption levels, and the reliability of public services in various countries.

While trust scores for government improved slightly during the pandemic, trust in public institutions stayed nearly the same.

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30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America

The U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades. Here are the numbers behind America’s gun manufacturing sector.

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gun manufacturing in america

30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America

While gun sales have been brisk in recent years, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 was a boon for the gun industry.

From 2010-2019, an average of 13 million guns were sold legally in the U.S. each year. In 2020 and 2021, annual gun sales sharply increased to 20 million.

While the U.S. does import millions of weapons each year, a large amount of firearms sold in the country were produced domestically. Let’s dig into the data behind the multi-billion dollar gun manufacturing industry in America.

Gun Manufacturing in the United States

According to a recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades, with production increasing sharply in recent years.

firearms per 100000 persons

America’s gunmakers produce a wide variety of firearms, but they’re generally grouped into five categories; pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and everything else.

Below is a breakdown of firearms manufactured in the country over the past 30 years, by type:

Year     PistolsRiflesRevolversShotgunsMisc. FirearmsTotal Firearms
19891,404,7531,407,400628,573935,54142,1264,418,393
19901,371,4271,211,664470,495848,94857,4343,959,968
19911,378,252883,482456,966828,42615,9803,563,106
19921,669,5371,001,833469,4131,018,20416,8494,175,836
19932,093,3621,173,694562,2921,144,94081,3495,055,637
19942,004,2981,316,607586,4501,254,92610,9365,173,217
19951,195,2841,411,120527,6641,173,6458,6294,316,342
1996987,5281,424,315498,944925,73217,9203,854,439
19971,036,0771,251,341370,428915,97819,6803,593,504
1998960,3651,535,690324,390868,63924,5063,713,590
1999995,4461,569,685335,7841,106,99539,8374,047,747
2000962,9011,583,042318,960898,44230,1963,793,541
2001626,8361,284,554320,143679,81321,3092,932,655
2002741,5141,515,286347,070741,32521,7003,366,895
2003811,6601,430,324309,364726,07830,9783,308,404
2004728,5111,325,138294,099731,76919,5083,099,025
2005803,4251,431,372274,205709,31323,1793,241,494
20061,021,2601,496,505385,069714,61835,8723,653,324
20071,219,6641,610,923391,334645,23155,4613,922,613
20081,609,3811,734,536431,753630,71092,5644,498,944
20091,868,2582,248,851547,195752,699138,8155,555,818
20102,258,4501,830,556558,927743,37867,9295,459,240
20112,598,1332,318,088572,857862,401190,4076,541,886
20123,487,8833,168,206667,357949,010306,1548,578,610
20134,441,7263,979,570725,2821,203,072495,14210,844,792
20143,633,4543,379,549744,047935,411358,1659,050,626
20153,557,1993,691,799885,259777,273447,1319,358,661
20164,720,0754,239,335856,291848,617833,12311,497,441
20173,691,0102,504,092720,917653,139758,6348,327,792
20183,881,1582,880,536664,835536,1261,089,9739,052,628
20193,046,0131,957,667580,601480,735946,9297,011,945
Total60,804,84059,796,76015,826,96426,241,1346,298,415168,968,113

Pistols (36%) and rifles (35%) are the dominant categories, and over time, the former has become the most commonly produced firearm type.

In 2001, pistols accounted for 21% of firearms produced. Today, nearly half of all firearms produced are pistols.

Who is Producing America’s Firearms?

There are a wide variety of firearm manufacturing companies in the U.S., but production is dominated by a few key players.

Here are the top 10 gunmakers in America, which collectively make up 70% of production:

RankFirearm ManufacturerGuns Produced (2016-2020)Share of total
1Smith & Wesson Corp8,218,19917.2%
2Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc8,166,44817.1%
3Sig Sauer Inc3,660,6297.7%
4Freedom Group3,045,4276.4%
50 F Mossberg & Sons Inc2,223,2414.7%
6Taurus International Manufacturing1,996,1214.2%
7WM C Anderson Inc1,816,6253.8%
8Glock Inc1,510,4373.2%
9Henry RAC Holding Corp1,378,5442.9%
10JIE Capital Holdings / Enterprises1,258,9692.6%
Total33,274,64069.7%

One-third of production comes from two publicly-traded parent companies: Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ: SWBI), and Sturm, Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR)

Some of these players are especially dominant within certain types of firearms. For example:

  • 58% of pistols were made by Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and SIG SAUER (2008–2018)
  • 45% of rifles were made by Remington*, Ruger, and Smith & Wesson (2008–2018)

*In 2020, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its assets were divided and sold to various buyers. The Remington brand name is now owned by Vista Outdoor (NYSE: VSTO)

The Geography of Gun Manufacturing

Companies that manufacture guns hold a Type 07 license from the ATF. As of 2020, there are more than 16,000 Type 07 licensees across the United States.

Below is a state-level look at where the country’s licensees are located:

StateLicenses (2000)Licenses (2020)PopulationLicenses per 100,000 pop. (2020)
Alaska8117733,39116.0
Alabama402765,039,8775.5
Arkansas283023,011,52410.0
Arizona1009597,276,31613.2
California15962039,237,8361.6
Colorado274815,812,0698.3
Connecticut711943,605,9445.4
Delaware010989,9481.0
Florida1311,00921,781,1284.6
Georgia5251010,799,5664.7
Hawaii0111,455,2710.8
Iowa111873,190,3695.9
Idaho383581,839,10619.5
Illinois4026312,671,4692.1
Indiana392806,805,9854.1
Kansas172292,937,8807.8
Kentucky222114,505,8364.7
Louisiana202584,657,7575.5
Massachusetts672636,984,7233.8
Maryland361466,165,1292.4
Maine131071,362,3597.9
Michigan4338610,050,8113.8
Minnesota632545,707,3904.5
Missouri624016,168,1876.5
Mississippi121902,961,2796.4
Montana242401,084,22522.1
North Carolina5262810,551,1626.0
North Dakota346779,0945.9
Nebraska15911,961,5044.6
New Hampshire251881,377,52913.6
New Jersey10269,267,1300.3
New Mexico181792,117,5228.5
Nevada452763,104,6148.9
New York3529919,835,9131.5
Ohio8064411,780,0175.5
Oklahoma374233,959,35310.7
Oregon552264,237,2565.3
Pennsylvania8751912,964,0564.0
Rhode Island1201,097,3791.8
South Carolina252845,190,7055.5
South Dakota1479886,6678.9
Tennessee763526,975,2185.0
Texas1502,02229,527,9416.8
Utah334783,271,61614.6
Virginia484128,642,2744.8
Vermont1585643,07713.2
Washington493517,738,6924.5
Wisconsin383065,895,9085.2
West Virginia201151,793,7166.4
Wyoming20147576,85125.5

These manufacturers are located all around the country, so these numbers are somewhat reflective of population. Unsurprisingly, large states like Texas and Florida have the most licensees.

Sorting by the number of licensees per 100,000 people offers a different point of view. By this measure, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come out on top.

If recent sales and production trends are any indication, these numbers may only continue to grow.

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