Norway has the greatest level of ‘democracy’ in the world, according to the Democracy Index 2019, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Norway is followed by Iceland and Sweden in the second and third positions, respectively. Two other Nordic countries, Finland and Denmark, are also among the ten most democratic countries.

Thailand saw the greatest improvement during 2019 while China suffered the largest decline. At the bottom end of the table, North Korea, DR Congo, and Central African Republic have the least level of democracy. The Democracy Index includes 167 countries.

The countries are sorted into four categories based on their level of democracy. For the year 2019, 22 countries have been designated “full democracies”; 54 countries are in the “flawed democracies” group; 37 are considered “hybrid regimes”; while 54 are “authoritarian regimes”.  

Norway is the world's most democratic country in the world
Norway is the world’s most democratic country in the world

10 Most Democratic Countries

The world’s 10 most democratic countries, as per the Democracy Index 2019, are as follows.

  1. Norway
  2. Iceland
  3. Sweden
  4. New Zealand
  5. Finland
  6. Ireland
  7. Denmark
  8. Canada
  9. Australia
  10. Switzerland

These top ranked countries are all high-income economies that generally perform well on related livability indexes, and are among the most prosperous countries in the world. Scandinavian nations are some of the most democratic countries, having outperformed Western Europe and other regions in the developed world.

Mauritius, ranked 18, is the only African country in the full democracy group. South Korea is the top ranked Asian country at 23. Among other countries, United Kingdom is ranked 14, while the United States is ranked 25 – in the flawed democracy group. Russia and China are ranked 134 and 153 respectively, both among the authoritarian regimes.

Falling Democracy Worldwide

The average index global score fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44 in 2019. This is the lowest average score since the index was created in 2006. All world regions, other than North America, registered a decline in their average scores, with Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa experiencing the greatest deterioration of democracy. Out of the five index categories, four saw a decline in their average scores, the exception being political participation.

The level of democracy in China has fallen in recent years
Despite increasing prosperity and unprecedented growth in China in recent years, the level of democracy has actually fallen

Larry Diamond, a scholar on democracy, has pointed to a “democracy recession” prevailing in recent years, particularly in the developing world. The year 2019 saw the growth of distrust in institutions and political parties in some countries, while others experienced increasingly authoritarian rule.

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Another reason for the decline in democracy is the increasing number of countries facing political protests and social unrest. In various parts of the world, people have taken to the streets to demand their rights, with protests often turning violent. This unrest is driven by various factors, such as economic hardships, perceived corruption, and political failures.

Democracy Ranking Methodology

The Democracy Index is based on ratings for 60 indicators which are grouped into 5 categories as follows:

  1. Electoral process and pluralism
  2. Civil liberties
  3. Government functioning
  4. Political participation
  5. Political culture

Each of these categories has a score on a scale of 0 to 10, while the final score is an average of these five indexes. Full democracies have an overall score in excess of 8, flawed democracies have a score greater than 6 and up to 8; hybrid democracies score greater than 4 and up to 6; while authoritarian regimes have a score equal to or less than 4. The data sources also include the World Values Survey, and other public opinion surveys, such as Gallup polls and Barometer.   

The complete Democracy Index 2019 is available for download at The Economist website.