HomeOur World in Data

The world has recently become less democratic

See for example: Lührmann, Anna, and Staffan Lindberg. 2019. A third wave of autocratization is here: what is new about it? Democratization 26(7): 109

  • See for example:

    Lührmann, Anna, and Staffan Lindberg. 2019. A third wave of autocratization is here: what is new about it? Democratization 26(7): 1095-1113.

    Haggard, Stephan, and Robert Kaufman. 2021. The Anatomy of Democratic Backsliding. Journal of Democracy 32(4): 27-41

  • I use ‘autocratizing’ and ‘becoming less democratic’ as synonyms.

  • Lührmann, Anna, Marcus Tannnberg, and Staffan Lindberg. 2018. Regimes of the World (RoW): Opening New Avenues for the Comparative Study of Political Regimes. Politics and Governance 6(1): 60-77

  • I do not include the regime classifications by Polity and Bertelsmann Transformation Index here because Polity currently ends in 2018, and the Bertelsmann Transformation Index does not cover countries they consider to be consolidated democracies.

  • The reclassification in RoW  is the result of recent changes in the V-Dem data, which identify declines in the autonomy of the election management body, the freedom and fairness of elections, and especially the freedom of expression, the media, and civil society. You can read more in V-Dem’s 2021 annual report Autocratization Turns Viral.

  • Different approaches to measuring democracy also identify democratic declines in these countries.

  • Coppedge, Michael, John Gerring, Carl Henrik Knutsen, Staffan I. Lindberg, Jan Teorell, Nazifa Alizada, David Altman, Michael Bernhard, Agnes Cornell, M. Steven Fish, Lisa Gastaldi, Haakon Gjerløw, Adam Glynn, Sandra Grahn, Allen Hicken, Garry Hindle, Nina Ilchenko, Katrin Kinzelbach, Joshua Krusell, Kyle L. Marquardt, Kelly McMann, Valeriya Mechkova, Juraj Medzihorsky, Pamela Paxton, Daniel Pemstein, Josefine Pernes, Oskar Ryden, Johannes von Römer, Brigitte Seim, Rachel Sigman, Svend-Erik Skaaning, Jeffrey Staton, Aksel Sundström, Eitan Tzelgov, Yi-ting Wang, Tore Wig, Steven Wilson and Daniel Ziblatt. 2022. VDem [Country–Year/Country–Date] Dataset v12. Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project.

  • I do not include the indices by Polity and the Bertelsmann Transformation Index here because Polity currently ends in 2018, and the Bertelsmann Transformation Index does not cover countries they consider to be consolidated democracies.

  • This means that populous countries matter more when calculating the average than countries with small populations.

  • Edgell, Amanda, Seraphine Maerz, Laura Maxwell, Richard Morgan, Juraj Medzihorsky, Matthew Wilson, Vanessa Boese, Sebastian Hellmeier, Jean Lachapelle, Patrik Lindenfors, Anna Lührmann, and Staffan Lindberg. 2020. Episodes of Regime Transformation Dataset (v2.0).

  • Based on ERT, a country is autocratizing from when V-Dem’s electoral democracy index decreases by 0.01, until the score increases or remains unchanged for four years, and the total decrease between start and end amounts to a decrease of at least 0.10. Democratizing countries are classified analogously. We exclude Ukraine from 2002 to 2004 and El Salvador from 2015 and 2017 because for them democratizing and autocratizing episodes happen to overlap.

  • Seraphine Maerz, Amanda Edgell, Matthew Wilson, Sebastian Hellmeier, Staffan  Lindberg. 2021. A Framework for Understanding Regime Transformation: Introducing the ERT Dataset. Varieties of Democracy Institute: Working Paper No. 113.  University of Gothenburg.

  • This means, however, that some countries are not classified as autocratizing even though their score visibly declines. One example is the United States in the 2010s, whose decline between 2015 and 2020 fell just barely short of the ERT threshold.

  • Bermeo, Nancy. 2016. On democratic backsliding. Journal of Democracy 27(1): 5-19.

  • This move away from democratic rights looks very similar if instead of looking at absolute numbers, we look at the share of autocratizing countries or the world population living in them.

  • Different approaches to measuring democracy also identify democratic declines in these countries.

  • This includes the Lexical Index, Freedom House, the Bertelsmann Transformation Index, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

  • The same goes for uncertainty in the measurement of democracy itself.

  • All visualizations, data, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license. You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited.

    The data produced by third parties and made available by Our World in Data is subject to the license terms from the original third-party authors. We will always indicate the original source of the data in our documentation, so you should always check the license of any such third-party data before use and redistribution.