Mapped: The State of Democracy Around the World
Only 8% of the world’s population actually lives in a full, functioning democracy, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Meanwhile, another 37% of people live in some type of “flawed democracy”, while 55% of the world does not live in democracy at all, based on the EIU’s latest Democracy Index Report.
Events such as the war in Ukraine and restrictive, long-lasting COVID-19 measures, have caused numerous declines to country democracy scores in recent years. Since the source report first began tracking scores in 2006, the global average has fallen from 5.52 to 5.29.
The EIU measures democracy by assessing 60 indicators across five key categories:
- Electoral process and pluralism
- Political culture
- Political participation
- Functioning of government
- Civil liberties
Each category has a rank of 0-10 based on how the indicators fared, and the overall democracy score is an average of each of the five categories. For example, here’s a look at the U.S.’ scoring out of 10 in each of the overall categories in 2022:
|Electoral process and pluralism||Functioning of government||Political participation||Political culture||Civil liberties|
🇺🇸 Total U.S. democracy score = 7.85 / 10
This score defines the U.S. as a flawed democracy and ranks it 30th overall in the world, down four spots from last year’s ranking. “Flawed” in this case simply means there are problems, ranging from poor political culture to governance issues, but flawed democracies are still considered to have free and fair elections, as well as civil liberties.
The World’s Democracies by Region
Below we map out the state of democracy across various regions around the world.
One of the best performers year-over-year was Chile, with its score increasing by nearly 0.3. The country moved out of the flawed democracy category last year, largely because of the shift towards constitutional reform alongside President Gabriel Boric moving towards the political center, reducing polarization.
Only three other countries in the Americas are also considered full democracies: Costa Rica, Canada, and Uruguay—the latter of which is #1 regionally.
On the flipside, some of the world’s worst performers year-over-year are located specifically in Latin America, namely: El Salvador and Haiti. Much of the low scores in the region are associated with high crime rates and corrupt governance.
The only full democracy in Africa is the small, island nation of Mauritius. Overall, Africa is one of the lowest scoring regions with only five of the continent’s 54 countries ranking as some type of democracy.
Tunisia’s score decreased significantly in 2022. President Kais Saied dismissed parliament early in the year and took control of the electoral council, slowly shifting towards centralized power. And although there were critics, many have since been arrested, downgrading them in the EIU’s eyes from a flawed democracy to a hybrid regime.
Spain and France regained status as full democracies in 2022, mainly improving in the civil liberties and functioning of government categories thanks to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. However, both countries face political polarization; in Spain this is largely exemplified in the attitudes surrounding the Catalan separatist movement.
Some of the lowest scoring regimes in the region are in Russia and Belarus. Russia’s war in Ukraine has violated international law, as well as another country’s sovereignty, decimating its score by 0.96 in the index. Belarus has continually allied itself with Russia, allowing troops—and likely missiles—to enter Ukraine from its borders.
Oceania and East Asia
In this region, levels of democracy were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hong Kong only removed restrictive policies like mask mandates in early 2023. In contrast, Thailand lifted these restrictions a year prior, providing more individual freedom, according to the report.
Malaysia’s fairly high score of 7.3 could face scrutiny, as the former Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, who was in office during COVID-19, is currently facing corruption charges for money laundering of COVID-19 stimulus package funds.
Central Asia and The Middle East
Finally, in the Middle East and Central Asia, there are no full democracies at all. The lowest scoring country globally is Afghanistan at only 0.32.
Israel, the only democracy of any kind of the region, actually moved down six spots in the global ranking from the year prior. Its lowest scoring category in 2022 was civil liberties. This year, the country is in the spotlight due to its judicial reforms proposed by the ruling nationalist party, and civil response has been strong. Mass protests continue around the country.