On global indices measuring democracy

On global indices measuring democracy


India’s democratic credentials have come under scrutiny with recent assessments labeling it as “one of the worst autocratisers.” These evaluations by international organizations have sparked controversy, prompting the Indian Government to consider releasing its own democracy index. This article explores the significance of democracy indices, the implications of their assessments, and the underlying causes of the issue.

GS-02 (Polity)

Facts for Prelims:

  • Liberal Democratic Index (LDI): The LDI captures both liberal (individual and minority rights) and electoral aspects (free and fair elections) of a democracy based on 71 indicators that make up the Liberal Component Index (LCI) and the Electoral Democracy Index (EDI).

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Overview of the Democracy Report
  • Key Findings of the Democracy Report 2024
  • Implications of the Issue
  • Causes
  • Suggested Measures

Overview of the Democracy Report:

  • The Democracy Report which is published by the V-Dem Institute shows the global state of democracy, emphasizing both democratization and autocratization trends.
  • It employs the Liberal Democratic Index (LDI) to classify countries into four regime types: Liberal Democracy, Electoral Democracy, Electoral Autocracy, and Closed Autocracy.
  • The democracy report is published Annually.

Key Findings of the Democracy Report 2024:

  • The Democracy Report 2024, a collaborative effort involving 4,200 scholars from 180 countries, analyzes 31 million datasets spanning 202 countries from 1789 to 2023.
  • It reveals the prevalence of autocratization in 42 countries and the decline in global democracy levels, affecting 71% of the world’s population.
  • The report highlights significant declines in Eastern Europe and South and Central Asia, with freedom of expression, clean elections, and civil society suffering the most.
  • India, classified as an electoral autocracy since 2018, has experienced further deterioration, reaching liberal democracy levels last seen in 1975, during the state of emergency declared by Indira Gandhi.

Implications of the Issue:

  • Global Perception: The negative assessments of India’s democracy by international indices could damage its reputation on the global stage and undermine its efforts to project itself as a thriving democracy. This could have implications for foreign investment, trade relations, and diplomatic engagements.
  • Domestic Politics: Domestically, the criticism of India’s democracy could fuel political debates and undermine public trust in democratic institutions. It may also affect electoral outcomes and shape public discourse on issues related to governance, human rights, and civil liberties.


  • Methodological Flaws: Critics argue that democracy indices suffer from methodological flaws, including subjective judgments, inadequate sample sizes, and cultural biases. These flaws can distort the assessment of democracy and lead to inaccurate or misleading conclusions.
  • Ideological Discrepancies: The amorphous definition of democracy and ideological biases among researchers and coders contribute to discrepancies in the assessment of democratic governance. This results in varying scores and rankings for countries, raising questions about the objectivity and reliability of democracy indices.

Suggested Measures:

  • Transparency and Accountability: Enhancing transparency and accountability in the methodology and data collection processes of democracy indices can improve their credibility and precision. Adopting standardized criteria and rigorous quality control measures can mitigate subjectivity and biases in assessments.
  • Incorporating Diverse Perspectives: Democracy indices should strive to incorporate diverse perspectives and stakeholder inputs in their assessments to ensure a comprehensive and balanced evaluation of democratic governance. Engaging with local experts, civil society organizations, and citizens can provide valuable insights into the nuances of democracy in different contexts.
  • Continuous Evaluation and Improvement: Democracy indices should undergo continuous evaluation and refinement to address emerging challenges and incorporate new developments in democratic governance. Regular reviews of methodologies, indicators, and scoring criteria can enhance the relevance and accuracy of democracy assessments over time.