The Quality of Democracy: An Overview

Issue Date October 2004
Volume 15
Issue 4
Page Numbers 20-31
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As democracy has spread to a majority of the world’s states over the past three decades, many scholars, politicians, activists, and aid administrators have gone from asking why transitions happen to asking what the new regimes are like. This new approach focuses on what makes a democracy “good” or “better,” and on how improvements can not only be measured, but encouraged. While there is no absolutely objective way of laying out a single framework for gauging democratic quality, there are eight dimensions on which democracies vary in quality: freedom, the rule of law, vertical accountability, responsiveness, equality, participation, competition, and horizontal accountability. These dimensions are closely linked and tend to move together, either toward democratic improvement and deepening or toward decay.

About the Authors

Larry Diamond

Larry Diamond is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. The January 2022 issue is his last after 32 years as coeditor of the Journal of Democracy.

View all work by Larry Diamond

Leonardo Morlino

Leonardo Morlino is professor of political science at the University of Florence and director of the Research Centre on Southern Europe. His books include Democrazie e Democratizzazioni (2003).

View all work by Leonardo Morlino