Democracy is struggling, Pew Research analysis of global surveys reveals

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WASHINGTON – Global surveys conducted in recent years by think tank Pew Research come to the inescapable conclusion that democracy as a system of governance, marked in its most basic form by equal rights, inclusiveness, free elections and the checks and balances of independent institutions, is in trouble.

An analysis of Pew’s democracy surveys around the world between 2015 and 2021 reveals four key insights into how citizens think about democratic governance – which democracy does not deliver; that people like democracy, but their attachment to it is often not very strong; that political and social divisions amplify the challenges of contemporary democracy; and that people want a stronger public voice in politics and policymaking.

The report released on Tuesday (December 7) precedes the first-ever two-day virtual democracy summit hosted by the United States on December 9-10, with 110 invited participants from around the world.

The idea, according to the White House, is to galvanize commitments and initiatives around three main themes: defense against authoritarianism, the fight against corruption and the promotion of respect for human rights.

What is democracy facing

A 2017 Pew survey of 38 countries found that a median of 49% believed a system in which “experts, not elected officials, make decisions based on what they think is best for them. the country “would be very or rather good.

And while autocracy was less popular than democracy, it was embraced by a remarkably large part of the public in many countries, Pew said.

A median of 26% believed that a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from Parliament or the courts was a very or fairly good way to govern, the survey found.

Even the military regime had its supporters, Pew found. A median of 24% said that a system in which the military ruled the country would be a very or fairly good system.

In five countries – Vietnam, Indonesia, India, South Africa and Nigeria – about half or more expressed this opinion.

High-income countries were not completely immune, Pew found. In Italy, France and the United States, 17% believed that military rule could be a good way to rule the country.

Pew notes that this finding was largely consistent with the results of other public opinion polls.

Economic pessimism

Pew Research Center surveys have consistently found that much of the public is dissatisfied with how its democracy works and wants political change.

“A median of 56% in 17 advanced economies surveyed in 2021 says their political system needs major changes or needs to be completely reformed,” Pew said.

“About two-thirds or more express this opinion in Italy, Spain, the United States, South Korea, Greece, France, Belgium and Japan.”


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