Despite the fact that democracy is a basic feature of national life, the practice of democracy does not necessarily have a uniform definition. Many characteristics of democracy vary across countries, and experts disagree on how to define and measure democracy. There are several approaches to measuring and classifying democracies, and these methods are used by researchers.
Some of the most common approaches to measuring and classifying democracies are those that rely on surveys, which ask experts about specific characteristics of a country. Some of these approaches use representative surveys, which capture the lived realities of regular citizens, while others are expert-based, which recruit many experts for each characteristic or scale used.
These approaches tend to be more coarse, and may even distinguish between broad types of democracy. Some also rely on country experts to evaluate certain characteristics of a country, while other methods utilize their own teams to evaluate difficult-to-observe characteristics. These approaches are common, and often cover a large number of countries.
A more subjective approach is an own-researcher-based approach, which focuses on subjective evaluation and encourages teams to rely on a variety of secondary sources. This approach faces a challenge in ensuring that the coders’ assessments are comparable. However, this approach is more widely used, and it has been shown to be effective in capturing the diversity of democratic countries.
Other approaches use a combination of both approaches, incorporating both quantitative scores and qualitative evaluations. This type of measurement is generally more appropriate for large countries, as it is less likely to be affected by population size. While this type of approach is usually more accurate, it is often more expensive and time-consuming.
These approaches are most common in the areas of political science, and they typically use a variety of indicators to determine whether a country is a democracy or not. The Boix-Miller-Rosato data, for example, uses its own teams to assess both easy-to-observe and hard-to-observe characteristics of a country. The data is also used to measure the stability of democracy around the world.
Other approaches use a combination of country-specific academic research, news reports, and other secondary sources to provide quantitative scores. These measures can be used to compare the characteristics of different countries, but they can also be used to assess the validity of the data.
These measurements of democracy are important because they are the tools used to identify and document the declines of democratic institutions. The Boix-Miller-Rosato dataset, for example, has been criticized for avoiding challenging evaluations, and it is not used to compare the trends of all countries. The Democracy Data Explorer, on the other hand, provides an overview of global and regional trends and includes indicators of specific characteristics of a country.
The Freedom in the World (Fin) report, for example, identifies electoral democracies that are free, partly free, or not free in recent years. It also explains the scores in country reports. These two measures of democracy can be combined to create a complete picture of the global trends in democratic countries.