Measuring Polyarchy Across the Globe, 1900–2017

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper presents a new measure polyarchy for a global sample of 182 countries from 1900 to 2017 based on the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) data, deriving from an expert survey of more than 3000 country experts from around the world, with on average 5 experts rating each indicator. By measuring the five components of Elected Officials, Clean Elections, Associational Autonomy, Inclusive Citizenship, and Freedom of Expression and Alternative Sources of Information separately, we anchor this new index directly in Dahl’s (1971) extremely influential theoretical framework. The paper describes how the five polyarchy components were measured and provides the rationale for how to aggregate them to the polyarchy scale. We find that personal characteristics or ideological predilections of the V-Dem country experts do not systematically predict their ratings on our indicators. We also find strong correlations with other existing measures of electoral democracy, but also decisive differences where we believe the evidence supports the polyarchy index having higher face validity.


  • Jan Teorell
  • Michael Coppedge
  • Staffan Lindberg
  • Svend Erik Skaaning
External organisations
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Gothenburg
  • Aarhus University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • Democratization, Measurement, Polyarchy, Validity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-95
Number of pages25
JournalStudies in Comparative International Development
Issue number1
Early online date2018 Jul 9
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch