Friday, June 4, 2021

The Perception of Democracy - Part 2 - The Key Threats to Democracy

In part one of this two-part series on global democracy, we looked at the perception of democratic by people from 53 nations around the world according to the Democracy Perceptions Index study by the Alliance of Democracies.  In this posting, we'll look at the greatest threats to democracy around the world.


From the survey of 53,000 people, the Alliance of Democracies study asked the following questions:


Respondents were asked to rank their answers by strongly agreeing, somewhat agreeing, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, somewhat disagreeing and strongly disagreeing.


Here are the results of the survey in order of degree of "agreement":


Economic inequality - 64 percent agreed, 15 percent disagreed


Limits on free speech - 53 percent agreed, 25 percent disagreed


Unfair or fraudulent elections - 49 percent agreed, 27 percent disagreed


Power of Big Tech companies - 48 percent agreed, 23 percent disagreed


United States influence - 44 percent agreed, 26 percent disagreed


Foreign election interference - 42 percent agreed, 29 percent disagreed


China's influence - 38 percent agreed, 32 percent disagreed


Russia's influence - 28 percent agreed, 36 percent disagreed


Let's looking detail at four of these factors that were deemed threats to democracy:


1.) Economic inequality - interestingly, a majority of people in all but 7 out of 53 nations in the study stated that economic inequality is a threat to democracy in their country.  Here is a graphic showing the breakdown with agree including "strongly agree" and "somewhat agree":


The perception off economic inequality as a threat to democracy appears to go hand-in-hand with the perception that governments are acting in the best interest of a minority of people.  The survey also showed that people who live in nations that are considered to be the "most democratic" are just as concerned about both of these issues as people who live in "less democratic" nations.


2.) Big Tech - according to the survey, just under half of the world's population in both democratic and non-democratic nations fear the influence of Big Tech companies, ranging from a high of 70 percent in the Philippines to 31 percent in Venezuela as shown on this graphic:


Given that the United States is home to the world's most influential Big Tech companies, it is somewhat surprising that 62 percent of American respondents believed that Big Tech is the top threat to American democracy, surpassing the 61 percent of Americans who believe that economic inequality is a threat to American democracy.  Americans are also the most critical when it comes to social media's impact on democracy with 47 percent believing that its influence is negative and 41 percent believing that it is positive compared to a global average of 24 percent negative and 62 percent positive.  Respondents from the United States, Hungary, Austria, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands are the only nations that had a net negative opinion of the impact of social media platforms on democracy.


3.) Free and fair elections - roughly half (49 percent) of the world feels that unfair elections and/or electoral fraud threatens democracy in their nation.  Here is a graphic showing the percentage of respondents who felt that unfair elections and electoral fraud had a negative impact on democracy in their nation:

It is interesting that 49 percent of Americans strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that American democracy was under threat by unfair elections and/or electoral fraud, just behind Russia percent but significantly worse than China.  While 40 percent of all respondents living in free democracies feared foreign interference in their elections, 53 percent of Americans stated that foreign interference threatens American democracy.


4.) Superpower influence - While Washington loves to tout the Russian and Chinese election interference narrative, a far higher percentage of people in the world are concerned about the threat of American influence on their elections as shown here:


Overall, 44 percent of respondents believed that the United States is a greater threat to democracy in their nation compared to 38 percent for China and 28 percent for Russia.  The United States is also considered to be the bigger threat in almost all major regions of the world with the only exception being the United States and Asia where the United States anChina basically tied at roughly 50 percent.


The top five nations most threatened by the United States includes Pakistan (65 percent, Phillippines (62 percent), Taiwan (58 percent), South Korea (58 percent) and India (55 percent).  The world is also split on the role of American policies on democracy; overall, 49 percent of the world views America's influence as positive while 35 percent views America's influence as negative.  Among free nations, 43 percent view America's influence as positive compared to 41 percent who view America's global role as negative.  Rather surprisingly, only 38 percent of Europeans regard America's role in world affairs as positive compared to 45 percent who view America's influence as negative.


Let's close by summarizing this two-part series.  The analysis by the Alliance of Democracies clearly shows that the concept of democracy is in the eyes of the beholder with nations like China whose citizens regard as democratic standing in sharp contrast to the Western anti-China mantra.  The biggest threat to democracy is widely viewed as the growing power and influence of the global elite who have benefited marvellously from the imposition of government anti-COVID measures which has led to a substantial increase in global income inequality.  It is also interesting to note that the United States and its foreign policies are widely viewed as a substantial threat to democracy, exceeding the threats posed by both China and Russia.  While the elite in Washington want the world to adopt their limited and self-serving view of democracy, it is clear that a very substantial portion of the global population would prefer to adopt their own democratic model rather than the flawed version being touted by Washington's ruling class.

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