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International survey: Citizens expect more democracy

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

The third Democracy Perception Index (DPI), one of the world’s largest annual surveys on democracy, indicates that people around the globe continue to see democracy as vital but have concerns about democracy in their own nations.

In the survey carried out by Dalia Research in collaboration with the Alliance of Democracies in 53 countries, 78 percent said democracy is important to have in their country – with a majority of respondents in each country answering in the affirmative. But worldwide, two in five respondents said their country is not actually democratic, and 43 percent said their government only serves the interests of a small group of people. 

78 percent consider democracy “important to have”

The DPI examined what it calls the “Perceived Democratic Deficit” – the gap in each country between how important citizens think democracy is, and how democratic they think their country is. The countries closest to their citizens’ expectations in 2020 are Denmark, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Taiwan; the nations least living up to citizens’ expectations for democracy are Hungary, Nigeria, Poland, Ukraine, and Venezuela. Thus, according to the study, “no government is living up to the democratic expectations of their citizens.” This confirms similar findings of last year’s study.

In addition, a 55 percent majority thinks that it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that a foreign power will influence the results of their next election. This fear is highest in the Asian countries Indonesia, Pakistan, India and the Philippines.

One bright spot for the world’s democracies is a generally high score on their governments’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worldwide, seven in 10 respondents in democratic countries say their government is handling the crisis well, compared to 74 percent of respondents in non-democratic states.

About half of respondents worldwide feel their country has applied the right level of restrictions on movement during the pandemic, though a similar proportion feels there have been too many violations on basic freedoms as a result of COVID-19 altogether.

The DPI was published ahead of the Copenhagen Democracy Summit to be held online this year from July 18-19. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2020. The sample of 124,000 online-connected respondents was drawn across 53 countries, with country sample sizes ranging from 1,000 to 3,000. Nationally representative results were calculated based on the official distribution of age, gender, and education for each country’s population.

Peter Orvetti
Peter Orvetti is a writer, intelligence analyst, and world federalism advocate residing in Washington, D.C.