State of democracy

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The state of a democracy describes the functionality of a democratic state; the healthier the democracy the more effectively it operates. An optimally functioning democratic state perfectly follows the principles of responsible, and representative government. The determination of the state of democracy in any given country is usually derived from independent analysis found in opinion polling.

Classifying an ideal democracy[edit]

The efficiency which each state measures up to these principles can be seen by analyzing several categories. Robert Dahl identifies five areas in which the ideal democratic state — or polarchy, as he describes it — can operate.

  • Effective participation: all members of the state should have the ability to make known their views of a policy to all other members of the state.
  • Equality of voting: all members of a state possess the ability to vote freely and without fear of any consequence. Furthermore, all votes which are cast must hold the same weight.
  • Enlightened understanding: all members of a state must have the ability to learn about any policy and its potential consequences.
  • Control of the agenda: all members of a state must possess the opportunity to direct the policies which are implemented by the state.
  • Inclusion of adults: all adults who are permanent residents of a state must have full rights as citizens of the state.[1]

A state which is perfectly responsible to its citizens, and representative of its citizens is impossible to achieve due to various real-world factors that arise, both deliberately and unintentionally. However, the factors which erode the state's ability to represent, and to be responsible can be identified and subverted through alternative policies. The scope of these categories can be further expanded, and can widely vary depending on which analytical methodology is being applied.

Determining the health of a democracy can take several different forms depending on the line of inquiry being pursued. The functioning of the state can provide insight into the overall state of a democracy. Representation within elected Houses of Parliament or Congress, specifically the under representation of women, or visible minorities in elected positions are two examples. The inaccessibility of elected officials by their constituents will erode citizens' control of the agenda, as well as their participation in the political system. The approval rating of the elected officials is indicative of the representation which a Congress is capable of offering. A low approval rating means that those who were elected to represent are failing their obligation, and therefore eroding the states' ability to remain responsible to the citizens it represents.

Rather than just looking at the functionality of the state in question, an individuals rights can be observed to determine the state's health. Specifically, how free a citizen is within any given state. A country whose citizens have more civic and political rights will in turn function more closely to a consummate state. Furthermore, the level of political knowledge in a state can affect the effectiveness of a democracy, in that an uninformed electorate is an ineffective one.

The electoral process is perhaps the most valuable category to determine the state of a democracy. Firstly by looking just at the actual process of voting; how easy or difficult it is to cast a ballot in a district. States which enforce tough voter ID laws may be undermining the qualities of an ideal state, simply by making it generally more difficult to cast a vote. Furthermore, specifically targeted voter ID laws may make the voting process unfair to a particular group of people. Finally, the voting power of all citizens may vary depending on the dilution of rural versus urban votes.[2] Laws surrounding who is allowed to cast a vote, as well as who is barred from the process affects the equality of the voting process. The voting process can be also analyzed by looking at the general process which goes into voting. Easy access, as well as early notification to voting booths, waiting times at polls, can both mobilize and discourage people from voting. Early polling and online voter registration can make the process more accessible to more of the electorate. The ability of the deputy returning officer can also affect the electorates' vote by potentially rendering votes non-countable through poor explanation of the voting process. Finally, the overall voter turnout is crucial to the state of democracy because the final statistic is in direct relation to all factors promoting, and eroding the democratic process.[3]

States of Democracies[edit]


The Samara Institute gave the state of Canadian democracy a C rating [4] after conducting an opinion poll, as well as analyzing voting trends in recent elections, the reasoning behind the low rating cited

  • Low voter turnout: with only 61% voter turnout in the 2011 Federal election, and 68% in the 2015 Federal election.
  • Uneven representation in the House: only 9% of Members of Parliament are visible minorities, and only 25% are women, only 14% are foreign born Canadians, and 2% Indigenous People.
  • Low approval ratings of Members of Parliament: with only 46% of the country being satisfied with how Members of Parliament are doing their jobs.


  1. ^ Dahl, Robert (August 11, 2000). On Democracy (1 ed.). Yale University Press. p. 37. ISBN 0300084552.
  2. ^ Pal, Michael; Choudhry, Sujit (2014). "Still Not Equal? Visible Minority Vote Dilution in Canada". Canadian Political Science Review. 8: 85–101.
  3. ^ Gerken, Heather (April 5, 2009). The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System Is Failing and How to Fix It (1 ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 216.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Mark (March 25, 2015). "Canadian democracy rates a mediocre 'C' in new report". Ottawa Citizen.