Democratic Backsliding Around the World

Research and Design:   Molly Linker

Affiliation: Wake Forest University - Department of Politics and International Affairs

Democratic Backsliding

This website or Shiny Application can help to explain how democracy is measured and further how we might see democracy backsliding, or declining around the world. On this tab, you can explore the overall measures for average democracy, along with some of its characteristics, over time. The data used to create this website comes from the Vdem Project or Freedom House. Both measures are highly respected, albeit different measures of democratic characteristics. Vdem uses both observational and expert-derived data to create one of the most comprehensive measures for democratic characteristics available to the public. Freedom House is similarly well-regarded within the scholarly world, orginating in Washington D.C. in 1941; It currently provides a 'Freedom Score' for countries around the world, taking into account various social and political aspects.

This plot shows a measure of various democratic characteristics. The BLUE line is the overall average of each characteristic, with all countries weighted equally. The RED line shows the average measure of a characteristic when each country has been weighted by population. The GREEN line shows each characteristic when countries have been weighted by their GDP.

What is Democracy - By Country

This tab is meant to show greater detail of many of the characteristics portrayed on Tab 1. Here, you can investigate how countries around the world have faired in their levels of democracy since 1980 and further, you can explore what characteristics within each country have changed, and how. For more information on the measures or variables used, visit either the Vdem or Freedom House website.

The above graph shows the average Vdem electoral democracy score for each country from the year 1980 to 2023, along with the average freedom score, gathered by Freedom House. The electoral democracy measure from Vdem tells us how well a country's democracy is doing in a given year. This variable is an index, derived from a weighted average of the characteristics shown in the plot below. While the line graph above show information from both Freedom House and Vdem, the bar chart was created using information only from the Vdem dataset.

In this graph, we can see a number of different characteristics of electoral democracy. Each of these characteristics are relevant to the overall average electoral democracy score for any nation in a given year. For more information on what exactly each characteristic means, and how it is derived, go back to the drop-down menu on Tab 1, or visit the Vdem website.

Democratic Characteristics Map

Below, you can see a map that shows the change in five different characteristics of the measure of electoral democracy, between 2000 and 2023, along with the overall change in democracy by country. One can choose to look at the measure of electoral democracy, corruption, clean elections, liberal principles, or the freedom house score. This visualization is meant to show how the measure of these characteristics has changed in different countries around the world. Further information, along with the definitions and compositions of these characteristics, along with how they are measured, is contained in the tab 'Democratic Backsliding'.

Note: the change measure for the variables except for corruption and the freedom house score have been multiplied by -1, so that they appear visually correct. On this map, all countries that show warm colors are having decreasing measures of democratic principles.