Low trust downgrades U.S. to ‘flawed democracy’ status, says EIU


The U.S. has been downgraded from a full democracy to a flawed democracy by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The group’s Democracy Index considers “60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties,” according to which states are classified under four types of government: full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.

America’s score fell to 7.98 from 8.05 in 2015, below the 8.00 threshold for a full democracy, putting the U.S. on the same level as France, Italy, Singapore, South Korea and India. Flawed democracies enjoy free elections and democratic institutions but suffer from weak governance, underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation, says the EIU.

But the U.S. downgrade is not due to the recent Presidential election, the EIU explains.

“The U.S. has been teetering on the brink of becoming a flawed democracy for several years, and even if there had been no presidential election in 2016, its score would have slipped below 8.00,” the report states, attributing the demotion to declining trust in government, elected representatives and political parties.

“On the contrary, the election of Mr. Trump as U.S. president was in large part a consequence of the longstanding problems of democracy in the U.S.” Joan Hoey, editor of the report, told EurActiv.com.

“Trust in political institutions is an essential component of well-functioning democracies. Yet surveys by Pew, Gallup and other polling agencies have confirmed that public confidence in government has slumped to historic lows in the U.S. This has had a corrosive effect on the quality of democracy,” the report found.

A similar pattern of declining popular confidence in political elites and institutions has also been evident in Europe, the report adds:

Such disaffection helped cause the scores of more than 70 countries to decline compared with 2015. Although Britain is one of the leading exemplars of this trend, it was one of only 38 countries to record an improved score, thanks to the robust turnout of 72.2% in the June 2016 Brexit referendum. Despite all the movement in the middle, however, the extremes of the ranking are still in place. Norway keeps its spot at the top with a near-perfect 9.93 out of 10, while North Korea remains rooted to the bottom of the table.

Countries that scored between 4 to 5.9 on the index were classified as hybrid regimes, including Turkey, Thailand, Myanmar and Morocco. North Korea, Syria, Chad and the Central African Republic remain among the EIU’s most authoritarian states.


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