Project Project
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Democracy Barometer

Project Management
Prof. Dr. Daniel Bochsler (Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau)
Marc Bühlmann (Universität Bern)
NCCR Demokratie, University of Zurich, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation

In the face of accelerating globalization, increasing inequality and ongoing democratization, a re-examination of the nature of political legitimacy and the functioning of democratic processes is taking place. Within the debates on these developments, the measurement and evaluation of democracy have received special attention. However, the most widely used indices for measuring the quality of democracy in comparative political science, such as the Vanhanen-Index, the Polity-Index and the Freedom House-Index, are being called into question. Three aspects of these indices' conceptual assumptions are being challenged: first, their focus on procedural aspects; second, their exclusive focus on the nation-state; and third, their tendency toward cultural blindness. Thus, these indices do not generate variation among established democracies and encourage unjustifiably self-congratulatory analyses. In order to remedy these deficits, the NCCR democracy barometer will develop an index that will measure the quality of democracy in advanced industrialized societies (OECD member countries) in a substantive and differentiated manner. In order to achieve this goal, the project combines the advantages of qualitative and quantitative approaches to measuring democracy and develops strategies of reaggregation and disaggregation that will allow us to take processes of globalization and "glocalization"quot; into account. The findings and data of the barometer will certainly benefit political scientists, but its critical assessment of democracy as an open-ended process will also be useful for practitioners ranging from political actors to civics teachers.

  • Bühlmann, Marc/Merkel, Wolfgang/Weßels, Bernhard/Müller, Lisa (2008): The Quality of Democracy. Democracy Barometer for Established Democracies. Working Paper 10a. Zürich: National Centre of Competence in Research Democracy of the Swiss National Science Foundation.