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United States hasn’t been considered ‘full democracy’ since President Trump took office

The United States of America, once looked up to as a leader for democratic ideals, is no longer considered a “full democracy” and hasn’t been since President Donald Trump took office, according to the Economist’s 2019 Democracy Index.

The Economist ranks the United States with a score of 7.96, 25th in the world, and as a flawed democracy. For comparison, Canada ranks 18 spots higher with a score of 9.22 and is a full democracy.

With the change in the United States’ standing, only 5.7 percent of the world now live in a full democracy compared to nearly nine percent in 2015. The world has hit a democracy low.

“In the 2019 Democracy Index the average global score for democracy fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44 (on a scale of 0-10),” the Economist said. “This is the worst average global score since the index was first produced in 2006. The 2019 result is even worse than that recorded in 2010, in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis, when the average global score fell to 5.46.”

The decline in the United States’ democracy rating, and consequently the world’s, is not completely Trump’s fault. The United States was steadily falling down the democratic rankings due to partisan efforts to disrupt opposing agendas before President Trump.

“Popular dissatisfaction with how democracy is working in practice, both in terms of government dysfunction and a lack of political representation by the two main parties, has grown in recent years. Political polarisation and partisanship have deepened, undermining the function of state institutions. The US has fallen steadily in the global rankings over the last decade, from 17th place in the 2010 Democracy Index to 25th in 2019. This mainly reflects a deterioration in the functioning of government category, which has been the US’s worst-scoring category since 2016, at 7.14. Public frustration with institutions has been building for years; according to Gallup polls, the number of Americans who approve of the way that Congress (the legislature) is handling its job fell to 21% in 2019, compared with 40% in 2000. The highly partisan nature of Washington politics has contributed to this trend. Republicans and Democrats are increasingly seen as being focused on blocking each other’s agenda, to the detriment of policymaking. This trend has worsened under the current administration.”

The Economist Democracy Index 2019

While the United States’ partisan issues have been there long before the current president, Trump has not done much to help the situation.

“On policy matters, Mr Trump’s unconventional, freewheeling approach has also strained working relations between the executive and legislative branches of the US government. Most of the major policy actions in 2019—including the escalation of the trade war with China, the abrupt redeployment of US troops from northern Syria and the killing of a senior Iranian general—were executed without consulting Congress. Moreover, Mr Trump has repeatedly called into question the independence and competence of the US judicial system, particularly when his policy directives have been opposed by the courts, most notably on immigration.”

The Economist Democracy Index 2019

22 countries are considered a full democracy while the United States is not. America is most certainly not great again.


If you are wondering how the democracy scores are made, here is the explanation of how the Economist decides the rankings.

“The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide in 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; the functioning of government; political participation; political culture; and civil liberties. Based on its 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” or “authoritarian regime”.

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