Is the world becoming less democratic?

In recent years there has been much talk about increasing pressure, in many countries, on democracy. In the United States, a cradle of democracy, the erosion of democracy has been going on for many years, a process that has only gotten worse under Donald Trump's presidency. In many other countries there is also a rise of populist politicians with autocratic leanings. 
Is it true that democracies are under pressure? Is it really the case that the world is becoming less democratic? An article by Bastian Herre (2022) provides answers. 

The what and why of democracy 

Before we look at the answer to the question, let's briefly consider what democracy is and why democracy is important. In a democracy, citizens can express their political preferences and choose their administrators. In a stable democracy there are rules and institutions that limit the power of administrators.
Over the past 200 years, the number of democracies in the world has grown steadily. This is a good thing because citizens in democracies are generally more prosperous, healthier, happier with their lives and better educated than citizens in non-democracies. 

Is the world becoming less democratic? 

Bastian Herre (2022) answers the question of whether democracy is declining with a resounding yes. Based on his research, he notes the following about the trend in recent years: 
  1. The number of democracies has decreased (see graph
  2. Fewer people live in democracies (see graph
  3. Countries and citizens have fewer democratic rights (see graph
  4. More countries are autocratizing (see graph) and more people live in these countries (see graph
  5. The decline in democracy is substantial but limited and the extent depends on the method of measurement 
Herre explains that the world has had such periods of democracy regression before (in the 1930s and 60s/70s) and has overcome them. 


There is work to be done. Not only must we put our shoulders to the wheel to save democracy, we must make an effort to raise the level of democracy (read more).