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Mapped: The State of Democracy Around the World

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map infographic showing the state of democracy around world in 2023

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Mapped: The State of Democracy Around the World

Only 8% of the world’s population actually lives in a full, functioning democracy, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Meanwhile, another 37% of people live in some type of “flawed democracy”, while 55% of the world does not live in democracy at all, based on the EIU’s latest Democracy Index Report.

Events such as the war in Ukraine and restrictive, long-lasting COVID-19 measures, have caused numerous declines to country democracy scores in recent years. Since the source report first began tracking scores in 2006, the global average has fallen from 5.52 to 5.29.

The Methodology

The EIU measures democracy by assessing 60 indicators across five key categories:

  1. Electoral process and pluralism
  2. Political culture
  3. Political participation
  4. Functioning of government
  5. Civil liberties

Each category has a rank of 0-10 based on how the indicators fared, and the overall democracy score is an average of each of the five categories. For example, here’s a look at the U.S.’ scoring out of 10 in each of the overall categories in 2022:

Electoral process and pluralismFunctioning of governmentPolitical participationPolitical cultureCivil liberties
9.176.438.896.258.53

🇺🇸 Total U.S. democracy score = 7.85 / 10

This score defines the U.S. as a flawed democracy and ranks it 30th overall in the world, down four spots from last year’s ranking. “Flawed” in this case simply means there are problems, ranging from poor political culture to governance issues, but flawed democracies are still considered to have free and fair elections, as well as civil liberties.

The World’s Democracies by Region

Below we map out the state of democracy across various regions around the world.

The Americas

state of democracy in the Americas

One of the best performers year-over-year was Chile, with its score increasing by nearly 0.3. The country moved out of the flawed democracy category last year, largely because of the shift towards constitutional reform alongside President Gabriel Boric moving towards the political center, reducing polarization.

Only three other countries in the Americas are also considered full democracies: Costa Rica, Canada, and Uruguay—the latter of which is #1 regionally.

On the flipside, some of the world’s worst performers year-over-year are located specifically in Latin America, namely: El Salvador and Haiti. Much of the low scores in the region are associated with high crime rates and corrupt governance.

Africa

state of democracy in Africa

The only full democracy in Africa is the small, island nation of Mauritius. Overall, Africa is one of the lowest scoring regions with only five of the continent’s 54 countries ranking as some type of democracy.

Tunisia’s score decreased significantly in 2022. President Kais Saied dismissed parliament early in the year and took control of the electoral council, slowly shifting towards centralized power. And although there were critics, many have since been arrested, downgrading them in the EIU’s eyes from a flawed democracy to a hybrid regime.

Europe

map infographic showing the state of democracy in Europe

Spain and France regained status as full democracies in 2022, mainly improving in the civil liberties and functioning of government categories thanks to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. However, both countries face political polarization; in Spain this is largely exemplified in the attitudes surrounding the Catalan separatist movement.

Some of the lowest scoring regimes in the region are in Russia and Belarus. Russia’s war in Ukraine has violated international law, as well as another country’s sovereignty, decimating its score by 0.96 in the index. Belarus has continually allied itself with Russia, allowing troops—and likely missiles—to enter Ukraine from its borders.

Oceania and East Asia

democracy in asia

In this region, levels of democracy were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hong Kong only removed restrictive policies like mask mandates in early 2023. In contrast, Thailand lifted these restrictions a year prior, providing more individual freedom, according to the report.

Malaysia’s fairly high score of 7.3 could face scrutiny, as the former Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, who was in office during COVID-19, is currently facing corruption charges for money laundering of COVID-19 stimulus package funds.

Central Asia and The Middle East

state of democracy in the middle east

Finally, in the Middle East and Central Asia, there are no full democracies at all. The lowest scoring country globally is Afghanistan at only 0.32.

Israel, the only democracy of any kind of the region, actually moved down six spots in the global ranking from the year prior. Its lowest scoring category in 2022 was civil liberties. This year, the country is in the spotlight due to its judicial reforms proposed by the ruling nationalist party, and civil response has been strong. Mass protests continue around the country.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The Democracy Index Report by the Economist Intelligence Unit

Notes: This report, which has been produced by EIU since 2006, uses 60 indicators as well as public opinion polling and expert analysis to rank various countries. A detailed methodology can be found starting on page 66 of the report.

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Politics

Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Türkiye0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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