The United States Is Officially No Longer A Full Democracy

by Erika W. Smith

If the first week under President Trump has seemed like a fast slide into dystopian totalitarianism, you’re not wrong. The United States is officially no longer a full democracy, according to the annual Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.

The ranking is released annually by the Economist Group, which is also behind the magazine The Economist.

The US’s score went from 8.05 in 2016 to 7.98 in 2017, slipping below the 8.0 threshold for a full democracy and entering the flawed democracy section for the first time since the rankings began in 2006. The US is also the only country to be downgraded from full democracy to flawed democracy this year.

The index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Along with full democracy and flawed democracy, there are two additional rankings: hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.

The Economist Group writes that Trump is not the only reason for the United States’ demotion in the rankings:

“Popular trust in government, elected representatives and political parties has fallen to extremely low levels in the US. This has been a long-term trend and one that preceded the election of Mr Trump as US president in November 2016. By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which US voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation. The US 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.”

They later add:

“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 US. This has had a corrosive effect on the quality of democracy in the US, as reflected in the decline in the US score in the Democracy Index. The US president, Donald Trump, is not to blame for this decline in trust, which predated his election, but he was the beneficiary of it.”

Notably, though, they illustrate the article page with a photo of Donald Trump:

Democracy Index

The United States is now ranked #21 on the Democracy Index, between fellow flawed democracies Japan (#20) and Cabo Verde (#23), and tied with Italy (also #21). Other flawed democracies include France, South Korea, India, South Africa, Greece, Brazil and Mexico, among many others.

In the full democracies section, Norway is ranked as #1; Canada is #6; and the UK is #16. You can see the full list here.

Top photo: Facebook/Donald Trump

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