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The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2016
Revenge of the “deplorables”

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2016
Revenge of the “deplorables”
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy
worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories. This covers almost the entire population
of the world and the vast majority of the world’s states (microstates are excluded). The Democracy
Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning
of government; political participation; and political culture. Based on their scores on a range of
indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of
regime: “full democracy”; “flawed democracy”; “hybrid regime”; and “authoritarian regime”. A full
methodology and explanations can be found in the Appendix.
This is the ninth edition of the Democracy Index. It records how global democracy fared in
2016. The title of this year’s report refers to the popular revolt in 2016 against political elites who
are perceived by many to be out of touch and failing to represent the interests of ordinary people
(“political elites” refers primarily to governments, legislatures, state institutions and political
parties, though it also encompasses the media, expert bodies and international organisations). It
was a revolt that was foretold in recent editions of the Democracy Index, which have focused on the
growing disconnect between political elites and the people that is particularly evident in the world’s
most mature democracies. The UK’s vote in June 2016 to leave the EU (Brexit) and the election of
Donald Trump as US president in November 2016 sent shock waves around the globe. Both were an
expression of deep popular dissatisfaction with the status quo and of a hankering for change.
A triumph of democracy or a threat to it? This was the question posed by the dramatic political
events of 2016. The answer from many was unequivocally negative. The Brexit vote and the election
of Mr Trump were for many liberals nothing more than outbursts of primal emotions and visceral
expressions of narrow-minded nationalism. Countless commentaries following the shock results
blamed popular ignorance and xenophobia for
“You could put half of Trump’s supporters
the Brexit and Trump results and implied that
into what I call the basket of deplorables.
those who voted for these outcomes were at
Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic,
best political illiterates who had been duped
xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name
by “post-truth politics” or, at worst, bigots and
it….Now, some of these folks, they are
xenophobes in thrall to demagogues.
irredeemable, but thankfully they are
The intensity of the reaction to the Brexit
not America.” Hillary Clinton, September
and Trump victories is commensurate with
9th 2016.
the magnitude of the shock to the political
system that they represent and the strength of feeling on both sides of the political divide. A strong
attachment to the post-war, liberal, democratic order makes it difficult for those on the losing side
to come to terms with what happened in 2016. However, such a powerful rebuke to the political class

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© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2017