What are the best and worst countries for democracy? A study of 165 countries from the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked countries based on civil liberties, the electoral process, government functionality, participation in the political process, and political culture. Countries were scored on a zero-to-ten scale, with ten being the most democratic.
Northern Europe and Scandinavia scored highest on the democracy index, with Norway scoring the number one spot with a 9.87 score, followed by Iceland and Sweden in the number two and three spots respectively.
According to the study, the United States is nowhere near the most democratic country on earth, ranking a 7.98, putting it in the number 21 spot, tying with Italy and ranking just below South Korea, which had an 8.0 score. The study placed 19 countries in a “full democracy” category, with countries scoring 8.0 and below in the “flawed democracy” category. The study saw the number of “full democracies” remaining the same over the previous year. The US scores at the top end of the “flawed democracy” category.”
Scoring at the very bottom of the list was North Korea, with a score of 1.08. Saudi Arabia fared only a little better with a score of 1.93.
According to the report, freedom of speech and expression has seen increasing restrictions, and in 2017, less than half of the global population had access to free or partially free media. The report noted that censorship is no longer limited to authoritarian countries, but is also being used in many of the world’s democracies. In its ranking of media freedom, only 30 countries were ranked as “fully free,” with 40 being “partly free,” 50 being “largely unfree,” and 47 being “unfree.”
The total Democracy Index’s global average fell from 5.52 in 2016, to 5.48 in 2017, with 89 countries seeing a decline in their score compared with the previous year. No countries saw an improvement in its average score compared with the previous year, and the average score for North America (Canada and the US) stayed the same. The report attributes the declining trend to a decline in media freedom and freedom of speech, along with other factors such as declines in participation, weakness in how the government functions, declining trust on the part of the population, and dwindling appeal of mainstream political parties. The report also notes a growing influence of unelected bodies and unaccountable institutions.
The report suggests that the world is in a “democracy recession.” This decline is most notable in what have historically been prominent democracies, both in Western Europe, and the United States.