Varieties of Democracy Project
The Varieties of Democracy Project (V-Dem) is an ambitious, multiyear effort to produce new indicators of democracy for all countries since 1900. Initially funded with the Institute’s first-ever collaborative faculty grant (since renewed), the initiative promises to help keep the Kellogg Institute at the forefront of research on democratization.
The international collaboration, led by Faculty Fellow Michael Coppedge, former Visiting Fellow John Gerring of Boston University, and Staffan Lindberg of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, aims to produce vastly improved indicators of democracy for use by researchers, NGOs, international organizations, activists, and journalists.
The reliable, precise nature of the indicators as well as their lengthy historical coverage will be useful to scholars studying why democracy succeeds or fails as well as to governments and NGOs wishing to evaluate efforts to promote democracy. Eventually, users of the data—freely available to the public—will be able to customize their own indices of democracy.
A Collaborative Project
The Varieties of Democracy Project—also known as “V-Dem”—involves a total of 18 researchers at 13 universities in the US, Europe, and Latin America, as well as the input of nearly 2000 country experts around the world. The Kellogg Institute serves as the project’s institutional home in the US, and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden serves that function in Europe.
Launched in 2010, the project seeks to capture seven different conceptions of democracy—participatory, consensual, majoritarian, deliberative, and egalitarian, in addition to electoral and liberal democracy—in all countries since 1900. The different types of democracy are broken down into components and then into approximately 400 specific indicators.
A pilot study carried out between May 2011 and January 2012 analyzed data from 12 countries: Albania, Burma/Myanmar, Egypt, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, Russia/USSR, South Africa, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, and Yemen (North and South).
The pilot tested the reliability of survey questions as well as the study’s online survey with 95 country experts compling online questionnaires.
The results are encouraging, says Coppedge. “They show that it is possible to measure democracy in a very fine-grained way, with quite plausible variation from year to year, country to country, and dimension to dimension.”
Varieties of Democracy Website
More information about V-Dem is available at v-dem.net, including data for download and visualization interfaces that can generate line graphs and distribution graphs for data from the pilot study.
Click here to read an article by Michael Coppedge on the design of the project and how it works.
Kellogg Community Involvement
The Varieties of Democracy Project has been enriched by the involvement of the entire Kellogg community:
Kellogg faculty fellows and graduate students give input through a Measuring Democracy Working Group.
Project collaborators have visited the Institute to lecture and take part in working sessions
Undergraduate international scholars have built a database of potential country experts and helped to edit the project’s website
Collaborative faculty grants promote innovative, collaborative, and interdisciplinary research on issues closely aligned with the Kellogg Institute research themes. In the case of the Varieties of Democracy Project, Kellogg grants have allowed the project to leverage additional funding.
Coppedge has received grants totaling $163,000 from the Research Council of Norway and Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Office of Research, and Center for Creative Computing.
European collaborators Staffan Lindberg and Jan Teorell have won nearly $1,000,000 for the project from the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Fund, and the Canadian International Development Agency.
Proposals for significant additional funding are under consideration.
(areas of project expertise listed under names)
Michael Coppedge (University of Notre Dame)
John Gerring (Boston University)
Staffan I. Lindberg (University of Gothenburg, Sweden and University of Florida (on leave))
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 (Harvard University)
Allen Hicken (University of Michigan)
Parties and Party Systems; Asia
Matthew Kroenig (Georgetown University)
Legislatures; Western Europe
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)
Megan Reif (University of Colorado Denver)
Election Fraud and Violence
Holli Semetko (Emory University)
Media; Western Europe
Svend-Erik Skanning (Aarhus University, Denmark)
Civil Liberties; Western Europe
Jeffrey Staton (Emory University)
The Judiciary; Latin America
Jan Teorell (Lund University, Sweden)
The Executive; Europe