A blog post

Democracy on the defensive

Posted on the 03 February, 2020 at 5:59 pm Written by in Research

Democracy is on the defensive, in the world today. Not only is the proportion of authoritarian and totalitarian countries growing, but the dissatisfaction with democracy in democratic or semi-democratic countries is growing too.

A new report based on public opinion surveys shows the growing dissatisfaction with democracy in many parts of world. Except for a fairly small group of countries, mainly in the European north, many democratic countries show a decline in satisfaction with democracy over the last years. Notable cases include the US, Brazil and the UK.

A brief news report here: https://www.bbc.com/news/education-51281722

More on the method here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-01/uoc-gdw012720.php

Full report here: https://www.bennettinstitute.cam.ac.uk/publications/global-satisfaction-democracy-report-2020/

The report discusses institutional and other factors behind the decline in support for (or trust in) democracy.

Surprisingly, gender equality is not mentioned as a background factor, even though many countries on the top of the list, with the largest satisfaction with democracy, are also on the top of the global gender equality indexes, like Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. (Cf http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2020.pdf )

The top performing group in this study is a mix of gender equality and economic benefit, it seems, including Switzerland and Luxembourg (cf report figure 6), but the correlation with high levels of gender equality is very noticeable – and yet not noted in the report.

Gender equality is probably strongly associated with well-functioning democracy in today’s world. It is a cause, not just an effect, of democratization. It is an integral part of democratization as research pioneer Ronald Inglehart (in his paper Gender Equality and Democracy) noted twenty years ago. Gender equality helps pave the way for democracy and helps extend its meaning from formal measures to real changes towards a fair society, working for all.  Gender equality is associated with better life quality, for men as well as women, controlling for economic level and income distribution (see Read more, below). Today, gender equality is a “filter” against build-up of social inequality and social conflict. Its not perfect, but it is there.

The importance of gender and gender equality has been neglected in many areas including democracy research. This needs to be changed – we need more research on this key link.

Read more:

Holter, Øystein Gullvåg 2014:
“What’s in it for Men?”: Old Question, New Data
Men and Masculinities 17(5), 515-548