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Democracy Index 2012

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Fifth edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy index. It reflects the situation at the end of 2012. In 2012 global democracy was at a standstill in the sense that there was neither significant progress nor regression in democracy in that year. Average regional scores in 2012 were very similar to scores in 2011.

Resumen en español: Pocos cambios importantes en el último año. Retroceso en Europa Central y Oriental, nada menos que en diez países de la región. Decepción en los países del llamado despertar árabe y terrible retroceso, como se puede comprender, en Siria a causa de la guerra. Sería prematuro, de todos modos, dar por fallidas las transformaciones árabes, pues la democracia, siempre imperfecta, no es un destino sino un proceso de maduración o de crecimiento imposible de fructificar en uno o dos años, salvo en sus aspectos más formales y frágiles, como pueden ser unas elecciones más o menos libres y plurales. España, en el puesto 25, por delante de países como Francia o Italia, pero por detrás la mitad de los países de la UE. Los escandinavos, Nueva Zelanda, Australia y Suiza siguen a la cabeza, mientras que Corea del Norte, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Siria y Arabia Saudí, por ese orden, figuran como los más autoritarios de los 167 regímenes políticos incluidos en la clasificación.

While some of the most oppressive parts of the world have made significant gains in democracy in the past year, the overall pace of democratic change remained stagnant in 2012. That is the conclusion of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s recently published annual report on the state of global democracy for 2012.

Stagnation of democracy

Key recent developments include:

  • The unprecedented rise of movements for democratic change across the Arab world led many toexpect a new wave of democratisation. But it has become apparent that democracy in the region remains a highly uncertain prospect.

  • 2012 was characterised by sovereign debt crises and weak political leadership in the developedworld.

  • Popular confidence in political institutions continues to decline in many European countries.

  • The US and the UK remain at the bottom end of the full democracy category. US democracy has been adversely affected by a deepening of the polarisation of the political scene and political brinkmanship and paralysis. The UK is beset by a deep institutional crisis.

  • In eastern Europe democracy declined in 10 countries in 2012. Had it not been for the significant improvement in the score for Georgia, the regional average score for eastern Europe would have declined in 2012 compared with 2011.

  • Rampant crime in some countries—in particular, violence and drug-trafficking—continues to have a negative impact on democracy in Latin America.




The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Each category has a rating on a 0 to 10 scale, and the overall index of democracy is the simple average of the five category indexes.

The category indexes are based on the sum of the indicator scores in the category, converted to a 0o 10 scale. Adjustments to the category scores are made if countries do not score a 1 in the following critical areas for democracy:

1. whether national elections are free and fair

2. the security of voters

3. the influence of foreign powers on government

4. the capability of the civil service to implement policies.

If the scores for the first three questions are 0 (or 0.5), one point (0.5 point) is deducted from the index in the relevant category (either the electoral process and pluralism or the functioning of government). If the score for 4 is 0, one point is deducted from the functioning of government category index.

The index values are used to place countries within one of four types of regimes:

1. Full democracies–scores of 8-10

2. Flawed democracies–score of 6 to 7.9

3. Hybrid regimes–scores of 4 to 5.

4 Authoritarian regimes–scores below 4

Threshold points for regime types depend on overall scores that are rounded to one decimal point.

Full democracies: Countries in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but these will also tend to be underpinned by a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy. The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. There is an effective system of checks and balances. The judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are
enforced. There are only limited problems in the functioning of democracies.
Flawed democracies: These countries also have free and fair elections and even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties will be respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.
Hybrid regimes: Elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common. Serious weaknesses are more prevalent than in flawed democracies–in political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak.
Civil society is weak. Typically there is harassment of and pressure on journalists, and the judiciary is not independent.
Authoritarian regimes: In these states state political pluralism is absent or heavily circumscribed. Many countries in this category are outright dictatorships. Some formal institutions of democracy may exist, but these have little substance. Elections, if they do occur, are not free and fair. There is disregard for abuses and infringements of civil liberties. Media are typically state-owned or controlled by groups connected to the ruling regime. There is repression of criticism of the government and pervasive censorship. There is no independent judiciary.
The scoring system
We use a combination of a dichotomous and a three-point scoring system for the 60 indicators. A dichotomous 1-0 scoring system (1 for a yes and 0 for a no answer) is not without problems, but it has several distinct advantages over more refined scoring scales (such as the often-used 1-5 or 1-7). For many indicators, the possibility of a 0.5 score is introduced, to capture ‘grey areas’ where a simple yes (1) of no (0) is problematic, with guidelines as to when that should be used. Thus for many indicators there is a three-point scoring system, which represents a compromise between simple dichotomous scoring and the use of finer scales.
The problems of 1-5 or 1-7 scoring scales are numerous. For most indicators under such a system, it is extremely difficult to define meaningful and comparable criteria or guidelines for each score. This can lead to arbitrary, spurious and non-comparable scorings. For example, a score of 2 for one country may be scored a 3 in another and so on. Or one expert might score an indicator for a particular country in a different way to another expert. This contravenes a basic principle of measurement, that of so called reliability—the degree to which a measurement procedure produces the same measurements every time, regardless of who is performing it. Two- and three-point systems do not guarantee reliability, but make it more likely.
Second, comparability between indicator scores and aggregation into a multidimensional index appears more valid with a two or three-point scale for each indicator (the dimensions being aggregated are similar across indicators). By contrast, with a 1-5 system, the scores are more likely to mean
different things across the indicators (for example a 2 for one indicator may be more comparable to a 3 or 4 for another indicator, rather than a 2 for that indicator). The problems of a 1-5 or 1-7 system are magnified when attempting to extend the index to many regions and countries.


Democracy Index 2013: Global Democracy At A StandstillThe Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 03/21/2013 4:49 pm EDT With link to  pictures of the 25 most democratic countries in 2012

Watch Laza Kekic @TheEIU_WEurope discuss the findings from the 2012 Democracy Index (run time 9mins) 


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