America no longer qualifies as a ‘full democracy’ because of a rapid erosion of trust in elected officials, according to the UK-based think tank The Economist Intelligence Unit.
The think tank creates an annual report ranking countries on their adherence to distinct democratic values, including civil liberties, electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political culture and political participation.
In 2016, the US dropped into the ‘flawed democracy’ category for the first time, earning a rating of 7.98 out of 10 – placing it below Japan, Uruguay and Mauritius.
“The U.S. has been teetering on the brink of becoming a flawed democracy for several years, and even if there had been no presidential election in 2016, its score would have slipped below 8.0,” the report read.
The US joins countries such as Japan, France, Israel, India and Chile in the ‘flawed democracy’ category.
Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada and Ireland came top of the list of ‘full democracies’, while Chad, Syria and North Korea ranked the lowest under the ‘authoritarian’ category.
The number of ‘full democracies’ slipped from 20 in 2015 to 19 in 2016, while 72 countries recorded a decline in their score.
“The US, a standard-bearer of democracy for the world, has become a ‘flawed democracy’, as popular confidence in the functioning of public institutions has declined,” the think tank said.
“The downgrade [in the US rating] was not a consequence of Donald Trump. Rather, it was caused by the same factors that led Mr Trump to the White House: a continued erosion of trust in government and elected officials, which the index measures using data from global surveys.
“This has been a long-term trend and one that preceded the election of Mr Trump. By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which US voters hold their government.
“A similar pattern of declining popular confidence in political elites and institutions has also been evident in Europe… Britain is one of the leading exemplars of this trend.”
A strong voter turnout of over 70 per cent in the Brexit referendum in June 2016, meanwhile, allowed the UK to boost its rating from 8.31 to 8.36.
The message for political leaders facing election in 2017 was that marginalised voters do not share the elite’s values and will “look elsewhere” if mainstream parties do not give them a voice, the report concluded.