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The Most Democratic Countries: How Does the U.S. Rank?

Problems with the electoral process, functioning of the government, declining civil liberties and political culture come into play in this ranking of democracy around the world

Democracy may be losing its footing in the world.

Dramatic declines in freedom have been observed in every region of the world, according to Freedom House, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that researches issues related to democracy, political rights and civil liberties. 

Democracy advocates around the world have historically turned to the U.S. for inspiration and support, but while the Trump administration has denounced authoritarian abuses in countries like Venezuela and Iran, the president has given a pass to tyrannical leaders like Vladimir Putin of Russia and Kim Jong Un, a report by Freedom House says.

According to the measure of democracy by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 48.4% of the world’s population live in a democracy of some sort. Only 5.7% reside in a full democracy, a decline of 8.9% since 2015 as a result of the U.S. being demoted in the Economist's ranking from a full democracy to a flawed democracy in 2016. Democratic norms and standards in the U.S. continue to be undermined by pressure on electoral integrity, judicial independence, and safeguards against corruption, according to Freedom House

More than one-third of the world’s population live under authoritarian rule, with a large share of that in China.

This index by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks democracy in countries around the world based on five categories:

  • Electoral process and pluralism;
  • The functioning of government;
  • Political participation;
  • Political culture;
  • Civil liberties.
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Based on the scores of zero to 10 on a range of indicators within these categories, each country is then classified as one of four types of regime: a full democracy, a flawed democracy, a hybrid regime or an authoritarian regime.

Based on the Economist’s 2019 Democracy Index, these are 30 of the world’s most democratic countries, which include all of the full democracies and, of a large number of flawed democracies, the seven highest ranked.  See how the U.S. scored.