Democracy is Declining Everywhere—even in the United States

As with any other government, there are many problems associated with a democratic government. And constant failure to resolve these problems can lead to the loss of trust by their citizens – especially in the face of declining quality in public services. However, in the end democracy relies on the support of its populous in order to function.

Unpopularity could be the least of Democracy’s Worries

The Economist Intelligence Unit, who provides an annual Democracy Index report, are indicating that democracies are in trouble all over the globe. There were 167 countries that received ranking this year, 89 of those countries got lower scores this year as compared to last year. These scores are reflecting a big range of attitudes, liberties, and norms that make up the most vital aspects of free society.

How does the scoring work?

This report assigns rank for each country on a 0-10 scale in each of the categories ranging from the electoral process and pluralism, government functionality, civil liberties, political participation, and the overall political culture. Every one of these categories is composed of more specific indicators. All these scores are then combined into one single score that represents the status of democracy and freedom within that country.

The overall score of every country places them into one of four classifications: a full democracy, a flawed democracy, a hybrid regime or an authoritarian regime. 

How bad is the world overall?

As it turns out, less than 50% of the people in the world are living under some kind of a democracy. This margin is quite thin as a single percent swing could actually tip the scale, and it is also symbolic of how democracy has declined during the past decade. Approximately 33% of the world’s population is living underneath authoritarian regimes – the majority of this number represents the population of China. But only 5% of the world’s population is living in a full democracy.

The biggest driver for this fall in democratic governments is Asia. And then there is India, who became a democratic nation after their independence, who has seen a big drop in its country’s score because of a marked increase in ethnic and religious unrest. Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam have all fallen deeper into authoritarian rule, and them there was the religiously infused election over the governorship of Jakarta that caused Indonesia’s score to drop tremendously.

Basically, the average score for all Asian country is equal to a hybrid regime, as opposed to full democracy status that are inherent throughout Europe and North America. And the averages core for Latin American countries is now a flawed democracy, even though Uruguay is the lone developing country which can claim full democracy status.

Why did this even happen?

While many of these democratic declines we are seeing globally is attributable to the extended use of authoritarian practices, like Spain’s response to the rebellion of Catalonia or the famous crackdowns on dissent in the nation of Venezuela, there were also some problems that occurred in established democracies as well.

The creators of this index also warn people that there are lots of elements for falling scores. Some of these elements go on to initiate deadly and vicious cycles, like the increase in the polarization that can hinder the overall function of government. This drop in functionality will almost always leads to the erosion of belief in their public institutions.