Feb 13, 2022 - World

Global democracy rating hits new low

Democracy Index 2021
Data: Economist Intelligence Unit; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

An annual global democracy index dropped to its lowest score since tracking began in 2006, with just 45.7% of the world's population living in a democracy of some sort.

Why it matters: At his inaugural "Summit for Democracy" in December, President Biden cast the global advance of authoritarianism as "the defining challenge of our time." He pledged to spend up to $424 million over the next year on democratic renewal initiatives.

The big picture: The average global score in the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2021 Democracy Index fell from 5.37 to 5.28 — the largest annual drop since 2010, after the global financial crisis.

  • The index ranks countries on a scale of 1-10, based on 60 indicators grouped into five categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.
  • 120 countries, or 71.8%, registered a decline or stagnation in their average score in 2021.

Zoom in: Ongoing political polarization during Biden's first year in office contributed to a democratic decline in the U.S., branded a "flawed democracy" that saw its score drop from 7.92 to 7.85.

  • Canada, which has been gripped by anti-mandate protests over the last several weeks, fell out of the top 10 due to pandemic-related restrictions and the ensuing political backlash.
  • The top five countries for democracy are Norway (9.75), New Zealand (9.37), Finland (9.27), Sweden (9.26) and Iceland (9.18).
  • The bottom five are Syria and the Central African Republic (tied at 1.43), Democratic Republic of Congo (1.40) North Korea (1.08), Myanmar (1.02) and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan (0.32).

Go deeper: Read the full report.

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