A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit


The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories. This covers almost the entire population of the world and the vast majority of the world’s states (microstates are excluded). The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Based on its scores on a range of indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of regime: “full democracy”, “flawed democracy”, “hybrid regime” and “authoritarian regime”. A full methodology and explanations can be found in the Appendix.

This is the 11th edition of the Democracy Index, which began in 2006. It records how global democracy fared in 2018. The results are mixed. For the first time in three years, the global score for democracy remained stable. This result disguises some movement across regions and across categories. One country, Costa Rica, moved from a flawed democracy to a full democracy; at the other end of the spectrum, one country, Nicaragua, moved from flawed regime to authoritarian regime.

A total of 42 countries experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2017; 48 registered an increase in total score. But as a percentage of the world’s population, fewer people lived in some form of democracy (47.7%, compared with 49.3% in 2017). Very few of these (4.5%) were classified as living in a full democracy. Just over one-third of the population lived under authoritarian rule, with a large share represented by China.

Political participation on the rise

A particular focus of this report is political participation, with good reason. In 2018 it was the only one of five categories in the Democracy Index to register an improvement. At a global level, political participation has in fact been improving in the index throughout the past decade. In 2018 the improvement was enough to halt the slide in the Democracy Index, for the first time in three years.

The growth of political participation is, moreover, a trend that is evident in almost every region of the world.

Only the Middle East and North Africa registered a decline in political participation in 2018; here the Arab Spring revolt in the early 2010s has had far-reaching repercussions, with the reassertion of power by authoritarian or hybrid regimes in all but one (Tunisia) of the countries affected…

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