Around the World, Democracy Is Losing Its Luster

Around the World, Democracy Is Losing Its Luster
A man reads a newspaper with the headline “And now, what do we do?” above a photo of French President Emmanuel Macron the day after inconclusive legislative elections, in Paris, France, July 8, 2024 (photo for NurPhoto by Artur Widak via AP Images).

The fact that democracy has been losing ground around the globe is well established. For two decades, democracy trackers such as Freedom House have documented the steady erosion in quantity and quality of democratic governance and freedom in the world, with some describing it as a deepening democratic recession.

But something else is happening alongside that pattern, an emerging trend that is just as troubling: The public’s view of democracy is changing. In multiple countries, satisfaction with the functioning of democracy is waning. In other countries, significant numbers view it as a less effective, less appealing system.

That is precisely the shift in opinion that authoritarian regimes such as those in Russia and China would like to see take hold in the democratic West. Moscow and Beijing have tried to cast doubt on democracy, while stoking the divisions that have shaken the foundations of once-stable democracies. At the same time, they have tried to persuade emerging democracies that the authoritarian model is more reliable and more conducive to improving living standards.

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