U.S. downgraded from full democracy to flawed one by new academic study

By Greg Hadley

Land of the free and home of the brave — mostly.

That’s the conclusion of a British think tank that has been rating countries’ systems of government since 2006 and for the first time ever concluded that the United States is no longer a full democracy, according to a report published Wednesday.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company to The Economist magazine, has published its “Democracy Index” report nine times over the past 11 years, rating countries based on their election process, protections of civil liberties, civic engagement, political culture and government transparency.

In particular, the report cited the “further erosion of trust in government and elected officials there,” per U.S. News and World Report.

In an interview with EurActiv, the study’s editor, Joan Hoey, said the downgrade was actually not sudden and that the U.S.’s scores have been declining for quite some time. In particular, Hoey said the move was not because of the recent election of President Donald Trump, who has worried many about the state of some freedoms in the U.S.

“On the contrary, the election of Mr. Trump as U.S. president was in large part a consequence of the longstanding problems of democracy in the U.S.,” she said.

The U.S. is now one of 57 countries who are now rated as “flawed democracies.” Flawed democracies have free elections but are characterized by weak governance and low levels of political participation, according to CNBC.

CNBC also reports that the U.S.’s weighted score of 7.98 put it just below the 8.0 standard for full democracy and on par with Italy, France, Singapore and India.

However, the U.S. is hardly alone in its decline. Per U.S. News and World Report, a total of 72 countries regressed from 2015 to 2016. Meanwhile, 38 countries improved, per The Economist.

Still, the United States continues to rank as a “free” country according to Freedom House, with a top 1.0 score on the organization’s seven-point scale.