Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) is a new approach to conceptualizing and measuring democracy. We provide a multidimensional and disaggregated dataset that reflects the complexity of the concept of democracy as a system of rule that goes beyond the simple presence of elections. The V-Dem project distinguishes between five high-level principles of democracy: electoral, liberal, participatory, deliberative, and egalitarian, and collects data to measure these principles.
With six Principal Investigators (PIs), seventeen Project Managers (PMs) with special responsibility for issue areas, more than thirty Regional Managers (RMs), 170 Country Coordinators (CCs), Research Assistants, and 3,000 Country Experts (CEs), the V-Dem project is one of the largest social science data collection projects focusing on research.
The Headquarters is based at the V-Dem Institute, the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
In the early years of Varieties of Democracy, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame was one of the two founding institutions and institutional homes for the project. The Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame was an instrumental part in building and establishing V-Dem. It was initially responsible for data collection in the Western Hemisphere, hosted workshops, and funded many students who worked on the project, as well as one of the Project Coordinators. In addition, the Center for Research Computing at Notre Dame developed the research database and the web interfaces that were used from 2011 to fall 2014. As the project grew, the V-Dem Institute in Gothenburg progressively assumed responsibility for these functions and became, in effect, the headquarters for the project. Recognizing the shifting roles, in 2018 the Kellogg Institute formalized its current role as the V-Dem Regional Center in North America, which supports research projects using V-Dem data and hosts speakers and occasional conferences and workshops.
Brief information about V-Dem can be found here: Varieties of Democracy Brief.
V-Dem is one of the largest-ever social science data collection efforts with a database containing over 19 million data points. Since April 2018, the dataset covers 201 countries from 1789-2017 with annual updates to follow. V-Dem is the recipient of the Lijphart/Przeworski/Verba Dataset Award 2016.
V-Dem draws on theoretical and methodological expertise from its worldwide team to produce data in the most objective and reliable way possible. Approximately half of the indicators in the V-Dem dataset are based on factual information obtainable from offcial documents such as constitutions and government records. The other half consists of more subjective assessments on topics like political practices and compliance with de jure rules. On such issues, typically five experts provide ratings.
V-Dem works closely with leading social science research methodologists and has developed a state of the art measurement model that, to the extent possible, minimizes coder error and addresses issues of comparability across countries and over time. V-Dem also draws on the team’s academic expertise to develop theoretically informed techniques for aggregating indicators into mid- and high-level indices. In this sense, V-Dem is at the cutting edge of developing new and improved methods of social science measurement.
What makes V-Dem different
In order to better conceptualize and measure democracy, the V-Dem project:
- Distinguishes among 5 high-level Principles of Democracy:
Electoral, Liberal, Participatory, Deliberative, and Egalitarian
- Disaggregates into dozens of lower-level Components of Democracy such as regular elections, judicial independence, direct democracy, and gender equality, and provides disaggregated indicators for each conception and each component.
- Covers all countries (and some dependent territories) from 1789 to the present, whenever possible, and provides an estimate of measurement reliability for each rating.
- Makes all ratings public, free of charge, in a user-friendly interface.
These features, taken together, distinguish our project from extant democracy indices.
Benefits of V-Dem
Through a systematic, historical, and disaggregated approach V-Dem:
- Provides a full set of indices for each conception and component.
- Allows scholars and practitioners to construct their own indices to suit their own purposes, exploring relationships among very specific elements of democracy over long periods of time.
- Advances our understanding of the historical process of democratization, shedding light on the sequences by which regimes have developed over the past century, and perhaps providing a glimpse into future.
- Advances our understanding of the causes and effects of democracy, the extent to which regime type matters in the world today.
- Allows for more nuanced understanding than present indicators currently allow.
- Assists governments, development agencies, and NGOs with country assessments, design of effective programs, and evaluation of the impact of development assistance in the democracy and governance (D&G) area.
V-Dem has been or is currently funded by (not in order of magnitude): Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, the European Union/ the European Commission/EuroAID, the European Research Council, Knut & Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Sweden, the Swedish Research Council, Marianne & Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, International IDEA, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Denmark, the Danish Research Council, the Canadian International Development Agency, NORAD/the Norwegian Research Council, Aarhus University, Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and the Quality of Government Institute, with co-funding from University of Gothenburg and University of Notre Dame.
For more information about funding please click here.