Findings from a new Pew Research Center survey show there’s considerable dissatisfaction in many countries with how democracy is working in practice.
In the midst of political deterioration and social setbacks on the international and geopolitical context, concern has been growing for the past several years about the future of democracy.
Across the world, countries and organizations have already begun to document global declines of democracy and the political polarization, racial inequality, discrimination, and authoritarian bias that encourage it, finding that there’s a general dissatisfaction in many countries regarding how democracy works and is held at practice.
Findings from a new Pew Research Center survey carried across 27 countries show that views about the performance of democratic systems are decidedly negative in many nations. A median of 51% are dissatisfied with how democracy is working in their country; just 45% are satisfied.
Among the surveyed public, Pew Research also found that most believe elections bring little change, that politicians are corrupt and out of touch and that courts do not treat people fairly. On the other hand, people are more positive about how well their countries protect free expression, provide economic opportunity and ensure public safety.
In 26 nations, unhappiness with the current functioning of democracy is more common among those who believe the statement “elected officials care what ordinary people think” does not describe their country well.
A democratic world
As of the end of 2017, 96 out of 167 countries with populations of at least 500,000 (57%) were democracies of some kind, and only 21 (13%) were autocracies.
This means that the share of democracies among the world’s governments has been on an upward trend since the mid-1970s, and now sits just shy of its post-World War II record (58% in 2016).
Of the countries surveyed by Pew Research Center, Sweden and the Philippines were among those with the highest levels of popular satisfaction with democracy: 69% in each nation said they were satisfied.
People in Mexico, Greece, Brazil and Spain expressed the most dissatisfaction with the state of democracy in their countries.
Confronting the democracy crisis
On October 19, 2017, former President George W. Bush gave a speech about the crisis confronting Western democracies today, he stated:
“The great democracies face new and serious threats—yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political, and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.”
These words seem to correctly comprise what’s at stake, and that is how the liberal order works in restoring the postwar democratic framework and responding to a crisis that threatens to its erasure in favor of a reactionary, authoritarian alternative.