Varieties of Democracy Project
The Varieties of Democracy Project (V-Dem) is an ambitious international effort to produce new indicators of democracy for all countries since 1900. With measures of democracy in great demand, V-Dem provides the global community with the world’s most comprehensive, accurate, and detailed democracy ratings.
An International Collaboration
The collaborative project is led by four principal investigators: Faculty Fellow Michael Coppedge, former Visiting Fellow John Gerring of Boston University, Staffan I. Lindberg of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Svend-Erik Skanning of Aarhus University, Denmark. The Kellogg Institute serves as the project’s institutional home in the US, and the Varieties of Democracy Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden is its home in Europe.
In addition to its PIs, the V-Dem team includes 12 researchers at 11 universities in the US, Europe, and Latin America; 31 Regional Managers all over the world; and more than 2000 country experts.
A New Understanding of Democratization
V-Dem seeks to capture seven different conceptions of democracy—participatory, consensual, majoritarian, deliberative, and egalitarian, in addition to the more familiar electoral and liberal democracy—in all countries since 1900. The different types of democracy are broken down into components and then into more than 400 specific indicators.
The reliable, precise nature of the indicators as well as their lengthy historical coverage is useful to scholars studying why democracy succeeds or fails and how it affects human development, as well as to governments and NGOs wishing to evaluate efforts to promote democracy. V-Dem makes the improved indicators freely available for use by researchers, NGOs, international organizations, activists, and journalists.
Data collection began in 2011 and now covers 173 countries, including colonies, from 1900 through 2012 or 2014. The goal is to update all countries every year or two when long-term funding is secured. In 2016, V-Dem has begun extending its data collection back to 1800.
Quality control is critical to the success of V-Dem. During 2015, the team cleaned and aggregated the data and crosschecked it with lateral coding to ensure accuracy within and across countries. All the data was made public on January 4, 2016.
V-Dem is very much a collaborative effort. In the first three years, the V-Dem team at Notre Dame oversaw the development of software for the researchdatabase and the web interfaces and also administered much of the data collection in the Americas. The V-Dem team in Gothenburg administered data collection in the rest of the world, developed the administrative database, and received most of the funding.
All data collection has been centralized at the Varieties of Democracy Institute since mid-2014, although the overall project continues to be governed jointly by the four principal investigators and overseen by a steering committee. CurateND, a service of the University of Notre Dame Libraries, hosts the archive of previous versions of the data.
Various V-Dem researchers have made presentations around the world to introduce local researchers to the possibilities of the data. The Kellogg Institute cosponsored the first such unveiling in Latin America in Santiago, Chile in January 2014.
Building composite measures of democracy by aggregating specific indicators into more general dimensions
Identifying the stages and sequencing of the democratization process, including early warning signs of democratic breakdowns
Analyzing processes of diffusion, including how and under what conditions democracy spreads.
In addition, a National Science Foundation grant to Notre Dame and two other US universities underwrote analysis of the impact of various aspects of democracy on health, economic growth, and other outcomes.
Kellogg Community Involvement
The Varieties of Democracy project has benefitted from the involvement of the entire Kellogg community:
Data Launch Workshop helps Notre Dame researchers learn how to make the most of newly public data.
Kellogg faculty fellows and graduate students give input through the Democracy Working Group.
Co-PIs and project leaders have visited the Institute to lecture and take part in working sessions.
Undergraduate international scholars have helped build a database of potential country experts, gathered data on legislatures, and helped to edit the project’s website.
Building on seed funding from the Kellogg Institute and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2010, V-Dem has gone on to win more than $10 million in project support. (Funds are for the entire collaboration but listed under their recipient institutions.) Proposals for additional funding are under development.
Received by the University of Gothenburg—$8.7 million
Canadian International Development Agency, Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission, Quality of Governance Institute, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, University of Gothenburg
Received by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies—$570,000
Androniko Luksic Grants Program, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Research Council of Norway, National Science Foundation, and the University of Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Office of Research, and Center for Creative Computing
Received by Aarhus University—$1.2 million
Danish Research Council
(areas of project expertise listed under names)
Michael Coppedge (University of Notre Dame)
John Gerring (Boston University)
Staffan I. Lindberg (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
Svend-Erik Skanning (Aarhus University, Denmark)
Civil Liberties; Western Europe
Former Principal Investigator
Jan Teorell (Lund University, Sweden)
The Executive, Europe
David Altman (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
Direct Democracy; Latin America
Michael Bernhard (University of Florida)
Civil Society; Sovereignty; Central & Eastern Europe
M. Steven Fish (University of California, Berkeley)
Legislatures; Post-Soviet States
Adam Glynn (Emory University)
Allen Hicken (University of Michigan)
Parties and Party Systems; Asia
Carl Henrik Knutsen (University of Oslo)
Patrik Lindenfors (Stockholm University)
Evolutionary Theory, Democratization
Kelly McMann (Case Western Reserve University)
Subnational Government; Russia & Central Asia
Pamela Paxton (University of Texas, Austin)
Formal & Descriptive Representation
Daniel Pemstein (North Dakota State University)
Jeffrey Staton (Emory University)
The Judiciary; Latin America
Former Project Managers
Matthew Kroenig (Georgetown University)
Legislatures; Western Europe
Holli Semetko (Emory University)
Media; Western Europe