Measuring Electoral Democracy with V-Dem Data: Introducing a New Polyarchy Index
This paper presents a new measure of electoral democracy, or "polyarchy", for a global sample of 173 countries from 1900 to the present based on the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) data, enabling us to address several deficiencies in extant measures of electoral democracy, such as Freedom House and Polity. The V-Dem data derive from expert polls of more than 2,600 country experts from around the world, with on average 5 experts rating each indicator. By measuring the five components of “Elected officials”, “Free and fair elections”, “Freedom of expression”, “Associational autonomy” and “Inclusive citizenship” separately, we anchor this new index directly in Dahl’s (1971) extremely influential theoretical framework, and can both show how well indicators match components as well as how components map the overall index. We also find that characteristics of the V-Dem country experts do not systematically predict their ratings on our indicators, nor differences between these ratings and existing measures such as FH and Polity, with which they are strongly correlated. Finally, we provide systematic measures of uncertainty (or measurement error) at every level. We showcase the usefulness of the new measure for understanding developments of electoral democracy over time, for comparing countries at a particular time point, and for understanding its relationship to economic modernization through disaggregation.