Democratic Backsliding or Stabilization?

The Role of Democracy Indices in Differing Interpretations


  • Hakan Sönmez Thinkout



Autocratization, Backsliding, Breakdown, Democracy Indices, Democratization, Hybrid Regimes, Regression, Quality of Democracy


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.’

Author Biography

Hakan Sönmez, Thinkout

Hakan Sönmez, 29, from Ghent (Belgium), is a research fellow at Thinkout. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing from the University College of Ghent, and a Master of Science degree in Political Science from the Free University of Brussels. His research focuses on democratization and autocratization processes as well as in civil disobedience and civil resistance. He frequently presents his policy recommendations at international conferences of the UN and the OSCE.


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How to Cite

Sönmez, Hakan. 2020. “Democratic Backsliding or Stabilization? The Role of Democracy Indices in Differing Interpretations”. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science 46 (September). Online:54-78.



Research articles