Visualizing the State of Democracy, by Country

by visualcapitalist

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Visualizing the State of Democracy, by Country

From Norway to North Korea, governing systems differ around the world. But has the world become more or less free in the past decade?

This visualization from Preethi Lodha demonstrates how democracy levels of 167 countries have changed since 2006. The original data comes from the Democracy Index, which is compiled annually by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Four Levels of Democracy

First, it’s important to understand the classifications made by the Democracy Index.

Based on answers to 60 questions across a nation’s electoral process, civil liberties, government functions, political participation and political culture, countries are assigned a range of scores in the Democracy Index.

Based on these scores, a nation automatically falls into one of the following four types of governance. Here’s which category fits the bill, depending on the range of scores:

Governance Type Description Example Democracy Index Score
Authoritarian Regime Nations which exhibit frequent
infringements of civil liberties,
unfair elections, and rampant censorship.
🇨🇳 China
🇰🇵 North Korea
🇦🇪 UAE
0.0-3.99
Hybrid Regime Nations with regular electoral
fraud, corruption, and low
political participation,
and suppressed opposition.
🇰🇪 Kenya
🇵🇰 Pakistan
🇹🇷 Turkey
4.0-5.99
Flawed Democracy Nations with fair elections,
underdeveloped political
participation and culture,
with minor issues in civil liberty
and government functions.
🇧🇷 Brazil
🇮🇳 India
🇺🇸 U.S.
6.0-7.99
Full Democracy Nations where political freedoms
are respected with limited
problems, governmental
checks and balances,
and diverse media exist.
🇦🇺 Australia
🇨🇦 Canada
🇳🇴 Norway
8.0-10.0

One thing that stands out is that many hybrid regimes and flawed democracies are also considered high potential emerging markets, but are held back by their political instability.

Notable Improvements

In recent times, public demonstrations have been a major cause behind increases in Democracy Index scores and changes in governance classifications.

Algeria moved from authoritarian to hybrid regime in 2019, the only country in the Arab region to do so in the index. This came after sustained protests against the previous president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika—who had served for 20 years.

Chile experienced similar turmoil, for the better. After a spike in the scale of middle class unrest over inequality and unfair policies in late 2019, the political participation moved it up from a flawed to full democracy.

Sliding Countries

The U.S. has one of the oldest democracies in the world. However, it was downgraded from a full to a flawed democracy as of the 2016 index, a status that had been “teetering” since before then, according to the report that year.

Venezuela dropped into an authoritarian regime in 2017, and it doesn’t seem to be improving anytime soon. The state was found to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to crack down on any dissent against the government.

Global Change in Democracy Levels

All in all, the average global democracy score worldwide emerged at 5.48 in 2019, although it’s clear that certain countries pull this value towards the opposite extremes.

North Korea, an authoritarian regime with a 1.08 score, has remained consistently one of the lowest ranked countries in the index. Meanwhile, its alphabetical successor Norway steadily keeps up its high score streak, with 9.87 being the best example of a full democracy in 2019.

Here’s how many countries made up each system of governance over the years, and the global Democracy Index score for that year.

Year Authoritarian Hybrid Flawed Democracy Full Democracy Score
2006 55 33 53 26 5.52
2008 52 35 52 28 5.55
2010 57 31 53 26 5.46
2011 54 35 53 25 5.49
2012 52 37 53 25 5.52
2013 51 40 51 25 5.53
2014 52 39 52 24 5.55
2015 52 36 59 20 5.55
2016 51 40 57 19 5.52
2017 52 39 57 19 5.48
2018 53 39 55 20 5.48
2019 54 37 54 22 5.48

Authoritarian regimes peaked in 2010 with 57 countries, whereas the full democracy category peaked in 2008 with 28 countries.

Since 2006, the average global score has slid from 5.52 to 5.48, and the total of countries categorized under full democracy decreased from 26 to 22.

Does this signal an increasingly divided world? And will the global pandemic—which is already delaying elections—have a further pronounced effect on backsliding these democracy scores?