US score falls in Economist’s annual Democracy Index
The overall state of democracy in the U.S. declined last year, according to an annual ranking published Wednesday by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, which cited the continued erosion of trust in the country’s institutions.
The U.S. retained its rank as the 25th most democratic nation, out of 167 countries analyzed, but remains in the “flawed democracy” category after being demoted from the “full democracy” group in 2016, the report said.
Norway was the highest ranked democracy, according to The Economist.
The report measures five main categories — electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture — and assigns scores to each one.
The overall U.S. score of 7.92 was down from 7.96 the previous year. Norway’s score was 9.81 in 2020.
“The US’s overall performance is held back by a number of weaknesses, including extremely low levels of trust in institutions and political parties; deep dysfunction in the functioning of government; increasing threats to freedom of expression; and a degree of societal polarisation that makes consensus on any issue almost impossible to achieve,” the report said.
The report cited the efforts by former President Trump and his allies to challenge the 2020 election results in several states with unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.
Those efforts, according to the report, follow increasing trends in other countries “to challenge the result of elections and referendums, and to seek to discredit the outcome by alleging external interference and giving credence to conspiracy theories.”
The U.S. improved its score for political participation, however, as the coronavirus pandemic, movements for racial justice and other key events fueled a high level of participation in the 2020 elections.
Beyond the U.S. findings, the report recorded the lowest average global democracy score since the index was first published in 2006. The Economist attributed the decline largely to “government-imposed restrictions on individual freedoms and civil liberties that occurred across the globe in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Across the world in 2020, citizens experienced the biggest rollback of individual freedoms ever undertaken by governments during peacetime,” the report states. “Most people concluded, on the basis of the evidence about a new, deadly disease, that preventing a catastrophic loss of life justified a temporary loss of freedom.”
As of Wednesday, COVID-19 has infected more than 104 million people globally, with approximately 2.2 million dead as a result of the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.