Democracy Index

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The Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy index map for 2012, with greener colours representing more democratic countries. Countries with DI below 2 (clearly authoritarian) are in dark red.

The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a private business based in the United Kingdom, that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are United Nations member states. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation, and political culture. In addition to a numeric score and a ranking, the index categorizes countries as one of four regime types full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian regimes. The index was first produced for 2006, with updates for 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.



As described in the report,[1] the democracy index is a weighted average based on the answers of 60 questions, each one with either two or three permitted alternative answers. Most answers are "experts' assessments"; the report does not indicate what kinds of experts, nor their number, nor whether the experts are employees of the Economist Intelligence Unit or independent scholars, nor the nationalities of the experts. Some answers are provided by public-opinion surveys from the respective countries. In the case of countries for which survey results are missing, survey results for similar countries and expert assessments are used in order to fill in gaps.

The questions are distributed in the five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation, and political culture. Each answer is translated to a mark, either 0 or 1, or for the three-answer alternative questions, 0.5. With the exceptions mentioned below, the sums are added within each category, multiplied by ten, and divided by the total number of questions within the category. There are a few modifying dependencies, which are explained much more precisely than the main rule procedures. In a few cases, an answer yielding zero for one question voids another question; e.g., if the elections for the national legislature and head of government are not considered free (question 1), then the next question, "Are elections... fair?" is not considered, but automatically marked zero. Likewise, there are a few questions considered so important that a low score on them yields a penalty on the total score sum for their respective categories, namely:

  1. "Whether national elections are free and fair";
  2. "The security of voters";
  3. "The influence of foreign powers on government";
  4. "The capability of the civil servants to implement policies".

The five category indices, which are listed in the report, are then averaged to find the democracy index for a given country. Finally, the democracy index, rounded to one decimal, decides the regime type classification of the country.

The report discusses other indices of democracy, as defined e.g. by Freedom House, and argues for some of the choices made by the team from the Economist Intelligence Unit. In this comparison, a higher emphasis has been put on the public opinion and attitudes, as measured by public surveys, but on the other hand, economic living standard has not been weighted as one criterion of democracy (as seemingly some other investigators have done).[2][3]

The report is widely cited in the international press as well as in peer reviewed academic journals.[4]

Changes from 2010 to 2011 and 2012[edit]

According to the latest issue of the index for 2012, Norway scored a total of 9.93 on a scale from zero to ten, keeping the first place position it has held since 2010, when it replaced Sweden as the highest ranked country in the index. North Korea scored the lowest with 1.08, remaining at the bottom in 167th place, the same as in 2010 and 2011.[1]

There was no significant improvement or regression in democracy between 2011 and 2012. In 2012 the index score stayed the same for 73 out of 167 countries, improved for 54 countries, and declined for 40. Libya experienced the biggest increase of any country in its score in 2012. Average regional scores in 2012 were very similar to scores in 2011. An exception is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) where the average score increased by more than a point, from 3.62 to 3.73 and three countries moved from authoritarian to hybrid regimes (Egypt, Libya, Morocco).[1]

The Democracy Index for 2011 highlighted the impact of the Arab Spring and the greater effects it might have, as well as the impact of the global financial crisis in 2008–09 on politics throughout most of Europe. The Democracy Index score was lower in 2011 than in 2010 in 48 countries out of the 167 that are covered. It was higher in 41 ranked countries, and it stayed the same in 78.[5]

In nine countries there was a change in regime type between 2010 and 2011; in four of these there was regression. Russia was downgraded from a hybrid regime to an authoritarian regime, which the report attributes to concerns over the December 4 legislative election and Vladimir Putin's decision to run again in the 2012 presidential election. Portugal was also downgraded to the flawed democracy category, attributed to the effects of the global financial crisis. Tunisia, Mauritania, Egypt, and Niger were all upgraded to hybrid regimes, and Zambia moved up to the flawed democracy category.[5]

Democracy index by regime type[edit]

The following table gives the number and percentage of countries and the percentage of the world population for each regime type in 2012:[1]

Type of regime Scores # of countries  % of countries  % of world population
Full democracies 8.0 to 10 25 15.0 11.3
Flawed democracies 6.0 to 7.9 54 32.3 37.2
Hybrid regimes 4.0 to 5.9 37 22.2 14.4
Authoritarian regimes   0 to 3.9 51 30.5 37.1

World population refers to the total population of the 167 countries that are covered. Since this survey excludes only a few countries, this is nearly equal to the entire actual estimated world population in 2010.

Democracy index by region[edit]

The following table gives the index average by world region:

Rank Region 2006[3] 2008[6] 2010[7] 2011[5] 2012[1]
1 North America 8.64 8.64 8.63 8.59 8.59
2 Western Europe 8.60 8.61 8.45 8.40 8.44
3 Latin America and the Caribbean 6.37 6.43 6.37 6.35 6.36
4 Asia and Australasia 5.44 5.58 5.53 5.51 5.56
5 Central and Eastern Europe 5.76 5.67 5.55 5.50 5.51
6 Sub-Saharan Africa 4.24 4.28 4.23 4.32 4.32
7 Middle East and North Africa 3.54 3.48 3.52 3.68 3.73
  World 5.52 5.55 5.46 5.49 5.52

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Democracy index 2012: Democracy at a standstill". Economist Intelligence Unit. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Democracy index 2010". Blog. Direct Democracy UK. December 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2011. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b Laza Kekic, director, country forecasting services (15 November 2006). "The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy". The World in 2007. Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  4. ^ e.g., "Inside the Authoritarian State: More State Than Nation: Lukashenko's Belarus", Dzmitry Yuran, Natalie Manayeva, and Oleg Manaev, Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 65, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 2011), page 93.
  5. ^ a b c "Democracy index 2011: Democracy under stress". Economist Intelligence Unit. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  6. ^ "Index of Democracy 2008". Economist Intelligence Unit. 21 October 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  7. ^ "Democracy Index 2010: Democracy in retreat". Economist Intelligence Unit. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 

External links[edit]