Subject: Democratic decline

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July 2019, Volume 30, Issue 3

Polarization versus Democracy

Why do ordinary people vote to return to office undemocratic incumbents? New survey experiments in several countries suggest that many voters are willing to put their partisan interests above democratic principles—a finding that may be key to understanding democratic backsliding.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

India Under Modi: Threats to Pluralism

In the world’s largest democracy, liberalism is in retreat, as evidenced by a pattern of assaults on minorities, press freedom, and the independence of key cultural and intellectual institutions.

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October 2018, Volume 29, Issue 4

Democracy’s “Near Misses”

What factors help a democracy to survive a crisis? A study of cases in which democracy suffered a steep decline, yet ultimately recovered and endured, offers new insights. In moments of crisis, unelected and nonmajoritarian actors can play a pivotal role.

October 2018, Volume 29, Issue 4

Liberal Democracy’s Crisis of Confidence

Public-opinion data from Pew Research Center show that global support for representative democracy is widespread, but often thin. Amid rising economic anxiety, cultural unease, and political frustration, citizens are increasingly open to alternative systems of government.

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April 2018, Volume 29, Issue 2

The Populist Challenge to Liberal Democracy

Across the West, economic, demographic, and cultural shifts have spurred the rise of populists who embrace majoritarianism and popular sovereignty while showing little commitment to constitutionalism and individual liberty. 

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April 2018, Volume 29, Issue 2

The Undemocratic Dilemma

The ability of liberal democracies around the world to translate popular views into public policy has been declining. Yet there is no easy way to overcome this trend without weakening the capacity of governments to solve some of the most pressing challenges of the coming decades.

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

Liberal Democracy’s Fading Allure

Is liberal democracy the only suitable type of government for a strong, modern society? A quarter-century ago, the answer seemed to be a clear yes. But today the picture is much cloudier.

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October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

Eroding Norms and Democratic Deconsolidation

“Democratic deconsolidation” on the level of attitudes and beliefs is real, and behind it lies a disturbing rise in tolerance for antisocial behavior, especially among the young. 

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April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

The 2016 U.S. Election: The Populist Moment

Rising populism in the U.S. and beyond is calling into question the liberal-democratic bargain that has defined the postwar era. What led to Americans’ present revolt against elites, and what are its implications?

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January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

The Signs of Deconsolidation

Political scientists have long assumed that “democratic consolidation” is a one-way street, but survey evidence of declining support for democracy from across the established democracies suggests that deconsolidation is a genuine danger.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

On Democratic Backsliding

Old-fashioned military coups and blatant election-day fraud are becoming mercifully rarer these days, but other, subtler forms of democratic regression are a growing problem that demands more attention.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

The Authoritarian Threat: Weaknesses of Autocracy Promotion

While “autocracy promotion” presents a real danger, its influence so far has been limited. Because authoritarian regimes are concerned first with furthering their own interests, their interventions often have contradictory effects, sometimes even inadvertently fostering greater pluralism.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Is Democracy in Decline?

As the Journal of Democracy celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, there are serious reasons to worry about the state of democracy.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

The Weight of Geopolitics

Can democracy prosper when democratic countries are in geopolitical retreat? History cautions against the notion that democracy will inevitably prevail.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Crisis and Transition, But Not Decline

Rather than being in decline, democracy is in crisis due to the gap between the democratic ideal and how democracy is actually being practiced. It will survive by transitioning into a new, as yet unknown, form.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

The Myth of Democratic Recession

In contrast to the conventional wisdom that democracy is in retreat worldwide, the evidence tells a different story: The state of global democracy has been stable over the last decade and is actually better than it was in the 1990s.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Facing Up to the Democratic Recession

Democracy has been in a global recession for most of the last decade, and committed and resourceful engagement by the established democracies is necessary to reverse this trend.

October 2014, Volume 25, Issue 4

Flirting with Disaster

A review of The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present by David Runciman.

July 2014, Volume 25, Issue 3

The End of the Transitions Era?

Regime change will always be a feature of political life, but we are unlikely to see again transitions to democracy on the scale of the “third wave.”

April 2014, Volume 25, Issue 2

The Freedom House Survey for 2013: The Democratic Leadership Gap

Civil-liberties scores have notably declined over the past several years, while political-rights scores have slightly improved—perhaps because modern authoritarians have begun to adopt subtler means of repression. Overall, however, freedom experienced a global decline for the eighth straight year in 2013.

April 2011, Volume 22, Issue 2

Sri Lanka: From Turmoil to Dynasty

Having only recently emerged from a prolonged and remarkably bitter civil war, Sri Lanka is now slipping steadily under the hardening authoritarian control of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family.

The Signs of Democratic Deconsolidation

In many parts of the world, democracy seems to be under threat. Populism is on the rise, as is public dissatisfaction with such key features of liberal democracy as political parties, representative institutions, and minority rights. Even in the long-established democratic regimes of Western Europe and the United States, attachment to democracy is weakening, particularly…

January 10, 2017

Democracy in Decline?

For almost a decade, Freedom House’s annual survey has highlighted a decline in democracy in most regions of the globe. Some analysts say this shows that the world has entered a "democratic recession." Others dispute that interpretation, emphasizing democracy’s success in maintaining the huge gains it made during the last quarter of the twentieth century.