2017 Democracy Index

Posted on March 28, 2018 • Category: Government and Politics

U.S. Flawed Democracy−Again

The U.S. ranked 21st in the world on the 2017 Democracy Index with a score of 7.98, making it a "flawed democracy" for the second year in a row.

Democracy Index 2017: Free Speech Under Attack

The Economist Intelligence Unit, February 2018


The Democracy Index is an annual study that measures the level of democracy available in 167 countries worldwide. The Index has been compiled since 2006 and countries evaluated as “full democracies” have an overall score above 8.00 on a 10-point scale. The overall score is determined by looking at 60 measures in five categories that make up the Index:

  • Electoral process and pluralism
  • Civic liberties
  • Functioning of government
  • Political participation
  • Political culture

Democracy Index 2017 by Type of Regime



The U.S. was ranked as one of 20 “full democracies” until 2016. At that time, the U.S. fell below the international standard with an overall score of 7.98 and again ranked among the world’s 57 “flawed democracies” for the second year in 2017.

Democracy Index 2017, Nation-to-Nation Comparisons of Top 10


Why are people worldwide disappointed in democracy today?
It’s a growing issue. As Larry Diamond, one of the world’s leading democracy scholars finds, the world has been going through a “democracy recession” since 2006.

According to the 2017 results of the Democracy Index, the following characteristics describe the democracy recession:

  • declining popular participation in elections and politics
  • weaknesses in the functioning of government
  • declining trust in institutions
  • dwindling appeal of mainstream representative parties
  • growing influence of unelected, unaccountable institutions and expert bodies
  • widening gap between political elites and electorates
  • decline in media freedoms, including curbs on free speech

Why has the U.S. become a “flawed democracy?

  1. Low Political Participation:
    Voter turnout in full democracies is generally above a 70% participation rate.
    Participation rates in America have not reached or exceeded the 70% threshold since 1900. Low voter turnout makes it less likely that election results reflect the opinions of the majority.
  2. Lack of Confidence in Government’s Ability to Solve Problems
    Support for democratic institutions continues to erode in the U.S. but equally serious is the growing lack of confidence that Americans feel in one another.
    19%    Citizen trust in government was highest in 1964 when 77% of Americans felt they could trust government to do the right thing. By 2015, American confidence in government had dropped to 19%.
    56%    Americans who trust the people of our nation to make decisions about our future, down 20% since 2004.


  3. Freedom of Speech Under Attack

    The 2017 Democracy Index calls attention to the fact that “…media freedom around the world has fallen to its lowest level since the Index was first published in 2006.

    Media Freedom around the world, 2017


    Currently, less than one-half of the world’s population enjoys the right to speak freely and has access to a free or partially free media. The United States currently ranks among the top 10 nations in the world for media freedom but is not immune from the threats emerging in Western Europe and other democracies. The challenges to free speech, even in countries that constitutionally guarantee it, include any attempts to constrain the free exchange of ideas, discussion, debate and argument.



The United States’ overall score on the 2017 Democracy Index drops America from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” for the second year in a row.
Democracy Index 2017: Free Speech Under Attack  

The Economist Intelligence Unit, February 2018


Democracy is decaying worldwide. America isn’t immune.  
Fareed Zakaria, The Washington Post, February 22, 2018


U.S. residents who are strongly committed to representative democracy.
Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy  

Pew Research Center, October 16, 2017