A woman shows her inked finger after voting in a village near Srinagar, India. (Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A woman shows her inked finger after voting in a village near Srinagar, India. (Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Chart showing that there are divided views around the world about how key aspects of democracy are working.Anger at political elites, economic dissatisfaction and anxiety about rapid social changes have fueled political upheaval in regions around the world in recent years. Anti-establishment leaders, parties and movements have emerged on both the right and left of the political spectrum, in some cases challenging fundamental norms and institutions of liberal democracy. Organizations from Freedom House to the Economist Intelligence Unit to V-Dem have documented global declines in the health of democracy.
As previous Pew Research Center surveys have illustrated, ideas at the core of liberal democracy remain popular among global publics, but commitment to democracy can nonetheless be weak. Multiple factors contribute to this lack of commitment, including perceptions about how well democracy is functioning. And as findings from a new Pew Research Center survey show, views about the performance of democratic systems are decidedly negative in many nations. Across 27 countries polled, a median of 51% are dissatisfied with how democracy is working in their country; just 45% are satisfied.
Assessments of how well democracy is working vary considerably across nations. In Europe, for example, more than six-in-ten Swedes and Dutch are satisfied with the current state of democracy, while large majorities in Italy, Spain and Greece are dissatisfied.
To better understand the discontent many feel with democracy, we asked people in the 27 nations studied about a variety of economic, political, social and security issues. The results highlight some key areas of public frustration: Most believe elections bring little change, that politicians are corrupt and out of touch and that courts do not treat people fairly. On the other hand, people are more positive about how well their countries protect free expression, provide economic opportunity and ensure public safety.
We also asked respondents about other topics, such as the state of the economy, immigration and attitudes toward major political parties. And in Europe, we included additional questions about immigrants and refugees, as well as opinions about the European Union.
Bivariate and multilevel regression analyses (see Appendix A for methodological details) show that, among the factors studied, dissatisfaction with democracy is related to economic frustration, the status of individual rights, as well as perceptions that political elites are corrupt and do not care about average citizens. Additionally, in Europe the results suggest that dissatisfaction with the way democracy is working is tied to views about the EU, opinions about whether immigrants are adopting national customs and attitudes toward populist parties.
These are among the findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 30,133 people in 27 countries from May 14 to Aug. 12, 2018.

Measuring satisfaction, dissatisfaction with how democracy is working

Economic discontent and democratic dissatisfaction

Chart showing that those around the world who say the current economy is bad are more dissatisfied with the way democracy is working.The link between views of the economy and assessments of democratic performance is strong. In 24 of 27 countries surveyed, people who say the national economy is in bad shape are more likely than those who say it is in good shape to be dissatisfied with the way democracy is working. In the other three countries surveyed, so few people say the economy is good that this relationship cannot be analyzed.
For example, eight-in-ten Hungarians who say the national economic situation is poor are also dissatisfied with the performance of the country’s democracy, compared with just 26% of those who believe the economic situation is good.
Views about economic opportunity also play a role. In 26 of 27 nations, those who believe their country is one in which most people cannot improve their standard of living are more likely to be dissatisfied with the way democracy is working.
However, personal income is not a major factor. And multilevel regression analysis suggests that, in general, demographic variables including gender, age and education are not strongly related to democratic dissatisfaction.