The index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy in 167 countries based on scores in five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
Canada’s overall score remained unchanged from 2017 at 9.15 while its 25th-ranked southern neighbour, the United States, saw its score drop slightly from 7.98 to 7.96.
The index classified Canada as a “full democracy,” one of only 20 countries to achieve that title. The U.S. remained a “flawed democracy” after falling below the threshold for a “full democracy” in 2016.
A “full democracy” is described as one “in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but which also tend to be underpinned by a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy.” A functioning government, independent media, an effective system of checks and balances and an independent judiciary are also hallmarks of a “full democracy,” according to the study.
Ranking ahead of Canada on the Democracy Index, from first place to fifth, were Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Denmark.
Canada was one of four countries that earned full marks for civil liberties, joined by New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.
“Canada has scored consistently well in the Democracy Index, thanks to its history of stable, democratic government,” the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) wrote, noting its high scores for civil liberties, electoral process and functioning of government.
On civil liberties, the index reported that “freedom of expression and religious and cultural tolerance are supported by the Canadian state, which is important given Canada’s large French-Canadian and native minorities.” It also noted that “all Canadians enjoy equality under the law.”
Despite this assessment, the index found that there is room for improvement in Canada when it comes to political participation, a problem the EIU said many developed nations share. Canada earned a score of 7.78 in the category, which was its lowest among the five categories.
The EIU pointed to poor voter turnout, low membership in political parties and a general lack of political engagement as examples of weaknesses on the political participation front.
The Economist Intelligence Unit is the research and analysis wing of The Economist Group, which publishes The Economist magazine.
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