University of Zurich: Denmark, Finland and Belgium Have Best Democracies

By University Of Zurich, PRNE
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ZURICH, January 27, 2011 - A new democracy barometer from the University of Zurich and the Social
Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) shows the development of the thirty best
democracies in the world. Denmark, Finland and Belgium have the highest
quality of democracy, whereas Great Britain, France, Poland, South Africa and
Costa Rica the lowest. Moreover, the barometer shows no evidence of a crisis
of democracy.

Diagnoses of a crisis of democracy are as old as democracy itself.
However, until now there was no instrument that allowed a systematic
measurement of the quality and stability of democracy in highly developed
industrialized countries. A democracy barometer that has analyzed the
development of the most important aspects of the world's thirty foremost
democracies since 1990 has now been presented at the University of Zurich.

The barometer uses 100 empirical indicators to measure how well a country
complies with the three democratic principles of freedom, equality and
control. The comparison of thirty established democracies between 1995 and
2005 has revealed that Denmark is leading the way, followed by Finland and
Belgium. "In the comparison, the lowest quality is exhibited by the
democracies in Poland, South Africa and Costa Rica," says Marc Bühlmann from
the University of Zurich. While Italy finds itself towards the bottom end of
the scale, it is surprising that Great Britain (26th) and France (27th) are
also so far down the ranking. Equally surprising is the fact that Switzerland
(14th) is only mediocre and lags behind 11th- placed Germany.

The democracy barometer can also be used to measure the quality of
democratic systems over time. "There was, however, no evidence of an overall
crisis or a decline in the quality of democracy," according to Bühlmann.
Quite the contrary: if the quality of democracy in all thirty countries is
seen as a whole, an increase in the quality of democracy from 1995 to 2000
can be observed and it is still at a higher level in 2005 than in 1995. Nine
democracies exhibit a lower quality than in 1995 (ITA, CZE, POR, USA, CRC,
FRA, IRL, AUS and GER), whereas the quality of democracy has risen in the
remaining twenty-one countries.

The complete Press Release can be downloaded under:

    Press Release and ranking:


    Marc Bühlmann
    University of Zurich
    Tel.: +41-79-354-88-79

    Wolfgang Merkel
    Social Science Research Center Berlin
    Tel.: +49-30-254-91-330

Contact: Marc Bühlmann, University of Zurich, Tel.: +41-79-354-88-79, marc.buehlman at ; Wolfgang Merkel, Social Science Research Center Berlin, Tel.: +49-30-254-91-330, wolfgang.merkel at

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