The fearful era in which we live is not conducive to defending democratic standards or extending democracy's reach across the globe. The latest edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index reflects the situation in 2015, a year in which democracy was tested in the face of war, terrorism, mass migration and other crises, and, in some cases, suffered serious setbacks. In our age of anxiety, the first casualty of fear and insecurity is often freedom.
The Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide. Almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies, but, in our index, the number of “full democracies” is low, at only 20 countries; 59 countries are rated as “flawed democracies”. Of the remaining 88 countries in our index, 51 are “authoritarian” and 37 are considered to be “hybrid regimes”. Norway tops the Democracy Index global ranking in 2015 and North Korea is bottom. The US scrapes into the "full democracy" category, in 20th place, reflecting deepening polarisation of the political scene, popular discontent with the workings of democracy and a repressive law enforcement system.
Democracy Index 2015, by regime type
No. of countries
% of countries
% of world population
Note. "World" population refers to the total population of the 167 countries covered by the Index. Since this excludes only micro-states, this is nearly equal to the entire estimated world population.
Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit.
Most "full democracies" are in western Europe. There are two Asian countries, one Latin American country (Uruguay) and one African country (Mauritius). “Flawed democracies” are concentrated in Latin America, eastern Europe and Asia. "Authoritarian regimes" are concentrated in Africa, the Middle East and the CIS countries of eastern Europe. Around 2.6bn people, more than one-third of the world’s population, live under authoritarian rule (with a large share being, of course, in China).
The title of this year's report reflects the threat to democracy emanating from the fearful mood of our times. According to Joan Hoey, Editor of the report, "An increased sense of anxiety and insecurity in the face of diverse perceived risks and threats—economic, political, social and security—is undermining democracy. Defending democracy means upholding liberty, equality, tolerance and free expression, promoting a democratic political culture and fostering democratic institutions."