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Expand chart
Reproduced from a Freedom House report; Chart: Axios Visuals

The slow, steady erosion of democracy around the world continued for the 13th consecutive year, according to the latest annual "Freedom in the World" report by Freedom House, a watchdog group that advocates for democracy and human rights.

The big picture: Between 1988 and 2005, democracy surged around the world. Since then, the reversal has been less dramatic, but it has been "consistent and ominous," according to the report.

  • Political rights and civil liberties became weaker in 68 countries since last year's report, and improved in only 50 countries.
  • The authors cite a shifting global balance of power in favor of countries like China, and "anger and anxiety in Europe and the United States over economic inequality and the loss of personal status" as underlying causes of the strains we're seeing on democratic institutions.
  • Globally, 39% of people live in countries deemed "free," while 24% live in "partly free" countries and 37% "not free."

A warning about the United States: The report says the U.S. freedom score has declined by 8 points (from 94 to 86) over the past eight years. It's still firmly in the "free category," but it's falling behind counterparts like the U.K., Canada, France, Australia, Germany and Japan.

  • The report blames longstanding problems like political polarization, loss of economic mobility, the influence of special interests and the rise of partisan media. But it also warns that President Trump "exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system."

Other big changes:

  • Hungary was demoted from "free" to "partly free."
  • Nicaragua is now classified "not free" rather than "partly free."
  • Serbia was downgraded from "free" to "partly free."
  • Uganda was reclassified from "partly free" to "not free."
  • Zimbabwe was upgraded from "not free" to "partly free."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspended the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

State Department orders evacuation of U.S. diplomats' families from Ukraine

From left, undersecretary for political affairs Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. chargés d'affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The State Department will begin evacuating families and nonessential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv this week, according to a travel advisory published Sunday evening.

Why it matters: The move underscores U.S. fears that a Russian invasion could destabilize Ukraine and threaten the embassy's ability to assist Americans.

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).