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Project: Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem)

Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem)

Academic researchers, policy practitioners, and the general public alike have come to depend on indicators of democracy such as the Freedom House and Polity indexes. Such indicators are used to trace waves of democracy, educate students about world politics, test theories about the causes and consequences of democracy, allocate foreign aid, assess efforts to promote democracy, and withhold or grant legitimacy to regimes and governments around the world. Because democracy indicators guide such momentous decisions, it is crucial that they measure democracy accurately. It is increasingly clear that existing indicators are not adequate for these purposes. Ideally, indicators of democracy would reflect the varied meanings of democracy in different parts of the world, measure each aspect of democracy precisely and without bias, and pass standard tests of validity and reliability. It is also essential that they cover almost all countries over a long span of time because it is only in a broad, long-term perspective that fundamental patterns and trends in democratization can be perceived and complex causal relationships can be sorted out. 

Project Website


Allen Hicken, Center for Political Studies (PI)

Project Period

July 1, 2016 – present