Mapped: 200 Years of Political Regimes, by Country
Do civilians get a representative say in how the government is run where you live?
While it might seem like living with a basic level of democratic rights is the status quo, this is only true for 93 countries or territories today—the majority of the world does not enjoy these rights.
It also might surprise you that much of the progress towards democracy came as late as the mid-20th century. This interactive map from Our World in Data paints a comprehensive picture of democratic rights across the globe.
Which Countries Achieved Democracy First?
The three famous first words in the U.S. Constitution—“We The People…”—paved the way for the birth of a federal democratic republic in 1789. This makes the United States of America the world’s oldest uninterrupted democracy today.
That said, the classification system in the interactive map above provides a slightly different perspective. It draws from the Regimes of the World (RoW) classification and the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project, and establishes four major classifications of political systems:
- Liberal Democracy
Citizens have further individual and minority rights, are equal before the law, and the actions of the executive are constrained by the legislative and the courts.
32 countries/territories in 2020
- Electoral Democracy
Citizens have the right to participate in meaningful, free and fair, and multi-party elections.
61 countries/territories in 2020
- Electoral Autocracy
Citizens have the right to choose the chief executive and the legislature through multi-party elections; but they lack some freedoms, such as the freedoms of association or expression, that make the elections meaningful, free, and fair.
64 countries/territories in 2020
- Closed Autocracy
Citizens do not have the right to either choose the chief executive of the government or the legislature through multi-party elections.
42 countries/territories in 2020
Under the classification system used here, it’s arguable that Switzerland was the first country to achieve a fully liberal democracy status in 1849, followed by Australia in 1858.
The Least Democratic Countries
Our World in Data also looks at how the global population breaks down by political regime.
The following chart demonstrates the share of the global population living under each type of regime since 1800, in relative or absolute terms.
While the global population has increased tremendously in 200 years, so has the number of civilians living under stricter political systems. Today, 1.9 billion people live in closed autocracies, of which nearly 75% live in China alone.
The major dip observed at the very end of the above chart comes from India. According to the data source, the nation flipped from electoral democracy to electoral autocracy status in 2019. As the second-most populous country, this change affected nearly 1.4 billion people.
Finally, while the data in the above maps and charts ends in 2020, notable events have taken place in recent months that may affect the number of people living in different political regimes.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-2021 caused the country to slide into closed autocracy status, and as the current conflict in Ukraine/Russia heats up, it’s possible that more people may find themselves living under non-democratic regimes going forward.
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.
How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?
Media trust among Americans has reached its lowest point since Trump won the 2016 presidential election.
How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?
Media trust among Americans has reached its lowest point in six years.
Gallup began its survey on media trust in 1972, repeating it in 1974 and 1976. After a long period, the public opinion firm restarted the polls in 1997 and has asked Americans about their confidence level in the mass media—newspapers, TV, and radio—almost every year since then.
The above graphic illustrates Gallup’s latest poll results, conducted in September 2023.
Americans’ Trust in Mass Media, 1972-2023
Americans’ confidence in the mass media has sharply declined over the last few decades.
|Trust in the mass media||% Great deal/Fair amount||% Not very much||% None at all|
In 2016, the number of respondents trusting media outlets fell below the tally of those who didn’t trust the media at all. This is the first time that has happened in the poll’s history.
That year was marked by sharp criticism of the media from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
In 2017, the use of the term ‘fake news’ rose by 365% on social media, and the term was named the word of the year by dictionary publisher Collins.
The Lack of Faith in Institutions and Social Media
Although there’s no single reason to explain the decline of trust in the traditional media, some studies point to potential drivers.
According to Michael Schudson, a sociologist and historian of the news media and a professor at the Columbia Journalism School, in the 1970s, faith in institutions like the White House or Congress began to decline, consequently impacting confidence in the media.
“That may have been a necessary corrective to a sense of complacency that had been creeping in—among the public and the news media—that allowed perhaps too much trust: we accepted President Eisenhower’s lies about the U-2 spy plane, President Kennedy’s lies about the ‘missile gap,’ President Johnson’s lies about the war in Vietnam, President Nixon’s lies about Watergate,”
Michael Schudson – Columbia Journalism School
More recently, the internet and social media have significantly changed how people consume media. The rise of platforms such as X/Twitter and Facebook have also disrupted the traditional media status quo.
Partisans’ Trust in Mass Media
Historically, Democrats have expressed more confidence in the media than Republicans.
Democrats’ trust, however, has fallen 12 points over the past year to 58%, compared with 11% among Republicans and 29% among independents.
According to Gallup, Republicans’ low confidence in the media has little room to worsen, but Democrat confidence could still deteriorate and bring the overall national reading down further.
The poll also shows that young Democrats have less confidence in the media than older Democrats, while Republicans are less varied in their views by age group.
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