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In an unfortunate turn of events, the United States has been listed in the Democracy Index as a “Flawed Democracy” by the analyst division of The Economist Group, the sister company to the newspaper, The Economist.
According to the London-based group’s website, the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the U.S. because of the “further erosion of trust in government and elected officials there.”
The group, that was first established in 1843, says that this is the first time in their history, that the U.S. has been listed as anything other than a “full democracy” since the research and analysis division began its annual Democracy Index.
Cited as a reason for the downgrade in the listing, the report stated that “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.” They also reported that the U.S. has been teetering on the brink of becoming a “flawed democracy” for several years.
With this downgrade in the listings, the U.S. has joined 57 other countries, that make up 44% of the world’s population, and are no longer part of the 4.5% of the population that is considered a “full democracy.”
The report shows that we rank at number 21, tied with Italy on the index, one spot below Japan. The cut-off point between the two designations is an overall score of 8.0, the U.S. tied with Italy with an overall score of 7.98.
The index is a snapshot of the state of democracy in 165 countries and two territories, said the report. The index uses “60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.”
In the first category, Pluralism and Electoral Process, the U.S. was ranked 35th in the world.
In the second category, Functioning of Government, we were ranked 29th.
In the third category, Political Participation, we were ranked 18th.
In the fourth category, Political Culture, we ranked 13th,
And, in the final category, Civil Liberties, the U.S. ranked a dismal 53rd.
The number one ranking in the world went to Norway, the last place ranking, at 167, went to North Korea, just below Syria.
In the 2016 election, the report stated that the results were spurred by the “long-term trend of declining popular trust in government institutions, political parties and politicians. They showed that society’s marginalised and forgotten voters, often working-class and blue-collar, do not share the same values as the dominant political elite and are demanding a voice of their own.” The Economist pointed out that because the mainstream parties did not provide the voters with that voice, they looked elsewhere, and they found it in Trump, who lacked political experience, and that lack is what qualified him in the voter’s eyes.
A compilation of polling data by the Pew Research Center, shows a decline in government trust through the years, with a high of just under 80% in the mid-60s to a present low of under 20%. Fewer than three in ten Americans have expressed trust in the U.S. government since 2007, that steady decline started in 1964. The lack of trust in government was lowest with non-university-educated, blue collar and working class respondents, according to poll data gathered by the Economist.
Between 2006 and 2016, 81 countries have registered a decline in overall scores, with 72 countries declining in scores in the past year.
It should be pointed out however, that with the exception of Uruguay, the former French colony of Mauritius, New Zealand and Australia, all of the countries that scored in the top 19 are western European countries. So, it could be argued that the report contains some bias.