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Photo: “New York Stock Exchange 20170311“, by Suicasmo, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Sonmez, Hakan. “Democratic Backsliding or Stabilization? The Role of Democracy Indices in Differing Interpretations.” POLITIKON: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science 46 (September 30, 2020): 54–78.


There is a great deal of disagreement about the nature and extent of the alleged democratic backsliding. In order to understand the connection between the conflicting assessments of the democratization process and democracy indices (Freedom House, Polity, V-Dem, and Economist Intelligence Unit), this article investigates the various methods of measuring democracy. The question arises whether the studies outlining a process of democratic backsliding are backed by adequate data. The comparison of indices shows that the pessimistic authors are in minority. Although the conceptualization, coding and aggregation rules in the indices are not always applied perfectly, they determine the level of democracy accurately. This article also reveals that there is only a consensus on a first reverse wave of democratization. The second and third reverse waves cannot be distinguished based on the latest democracy data, so it is also possible to call these trends ‘periods of stabilization.’

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.