Users’ Working Papers

The V-Dem Institute encourages users of V-Dem data to submit a version of their papers as Users’ Working Papers to be published in our website. 


- The V-Dem Institute has a wide network of readers and followers, both through website and social media. Sharing your paper with us can help to exchange your findings with other scholars and practitioners through our network and increase your readership.

- It also gives recognition to the people who have invested years into creating the dataset.

Please submit your paper by email to

Template for the Users' Working Papers is available here  Working Paper Template.docx (115.1 KB) .


V-Dem does not do quality control and therefore does not endorse the content of the Users' Working Papers, which is the responsibility of the authors only.

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Assessing the Costs and Benefits of COVID-19 Containment Strategies in Africa

Authors: Ruth D. Carlitz

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 40. February 2021.

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This paper explores the extent of variation in African countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, as-sessing the relative success of di˙erent strategies in containing the spread of disease as well as the costs con-tainment strategies have entailed. I begin by examining the range of responses taken by di˙erent African governments, looking at the consequences for population mobility and spread of infection during the ÿrst seven months of the pandemic (March-September 2020). Using anonymized mobile phone data, I show that mobility reductions were signiÿcantly greater in countries where the government enacted more stringent measures. Statistical regression analysis indicates that such mobility reductions are signiÿcantly and negatively associated with COVID-19 growth rates two weeks later. However, the success of lock-down policies in containing the spread of disease came at a signiÿcant cost in many countries, including severe economic contraction, disruptions to essential services, and curtailing of human rights. That said, such costs do not appear to be a necessary result of enacting stringent measures. Cross-country analysis reveals a number of cases where governments acted swiftly and seriously to contain the spread of disease but did not su˙er major economic or governance consequences. Highlighting the experiences of such countries is important for drawing lessons about best practices for continued management of COVID-19 and future outbreaks.
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The Impact of Chinese Aid on Democratization: Empirical Evidence from Southeast Asia

Authors: Lee Chen-Yu

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 39. February 2021.

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It has been argued that the “unconditional” nature of Chinese development aid causes deleterious effects on institutional quality in recipient countries. This article focuses on Southeast Asia to investigate the political impact of Chinese developmental aid. I argue that the effect of Chinese aid is conditional on regime types of recipient countries. Specifically, Chinese aid should intensify repression in closed autocracies but reinforce electoral manipulation in electoral autocracies. Moreover, I propose a nonlinear effect of Chinese aid in electoral autocracies as overdependence on Chinese aid could instigate anti-China sentiment, which arouses civil mobilization against the government and increases the likelihood of democratization. My identification strategy exploits time variation of Chinese steel production and cross-sectional variation of the probability to receive aid from China to construct instruments of Chinese aid reception. Overall, I find weak evidence of a Chinese “political aid curse” in Southeast Asia.
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The Grim Reaper: Extrajudicial Violence and Autocratic Rule

Authors: José A. Alemán

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 38. February 2021.

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What makes some authoritarian regimes more willing to employ extrajudicial violence, as opposed to relying on more conventional forms of repression? A voluminous literature exists on the causes, dynamics, and consequences of state repression. To date, however, scholars have not systematically explained one variety of repression, extrajudicial violence. I distinguish between generic repression (limits on the civil and political rights of citizens), and state terrorism – when the regime intimidates its political opponents using extrajudicial violence. I examine the relationship between the two in a conditional mixed process modelling framework for 121 countries (1946-2010). My analysis reveals that communist dictatorships repress the freedoms of expression, travel, and association, but military dictatorships engage in extrajudicial violence. The study contributes to the literature by providing an institutional account of why power is used and for what ends differently in these two regime types, and by modelling different types of repression simultaneously.
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Measuring Citizen Ownership of the State

Authors: Abul Kalam Azad

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 37. December 2020.

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This paper defines citizen ownership of the state (COS) as a combination of an acceptable election and implementation of the election promises. It introduces a two-tier measurement of the COS. Tier 1 by using election results determines whether the COS existed or not during a past period of time and Tier 2 using election promise implementation status determines how much the COS existed. Then, a combination of Tier 1 and Tier 2 scores results in an overall COS. At Tier 2, the paper argues, the level of implementation of election promises is a measurement of the COS. The paper models the authority of a representative government to a power of attorney. The citizen as principal awards a power of attorney to the winning individual, party or alliance as an agent in their election. In the election, the set of election promises of the agent becomes the only written part of the power of attorney. The 2009-2012 tenure of USA President Barack Obama is used to test how the methodological approach works with empirical data. The test finds Tier 2 COS at 70.7 percent and party intrusion into the COS at 29.3 percent in the tenure. After averaging Tier 1 and Tier 2 COS scores, the overall COS stands at 85.35 percent on a 0-100 scale.

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State of the World: Democracy’s Impact on Social and Economic Development

Authors: Jason Luo

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 36. October 2020.

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There is an undisputed correlation between a country’s form of government and its social and economic growth. Unfortunately, government is difficult to measure categorically (e.g. simply Democracy vs Autocracy), and the relationship of causality between these factors is complex. Using multi-dimensional political and social-economic data, along with statistics and machine learning, this study analyzes the democracy and development of 48 countries around the world over the past 40 years. Highly democratic countries were strongly correlated with robust and forward-thinking economies. Countries with weaker democracies were less predictable in terms of social-economic outlook. A stable autocracy like China can sustain high growth into 2030 while a country trending towards democracy can stagnate. The highest rates of social-economic growth were most likely to occur during periods of political stability rather than democratization. Democracies may have higher social-economic ceilings, but stability has a greater impact on growth.

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Taking Liberties: Trade with China and Civil Liberties in Africa

Authors: Anthony Luongo

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 35. September 2020.

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In this paper, I address the impact of China’s trade on civil liberties in African states during the period 1992-2016. China’s growing economic involvement in African countries has drawn concern from Western policymakers and scholars, who contend that China’s activities threaten African democratization and political and economic independence. I argue that the unconditional nature of partnership with China (as opposed to the somewhat conditional nature of Western engagement) allows authoritarian leaders to avoid liberalizing civil liberties conditions in their country without concerns about access to funds. Using Time-Series-Cross-Section analysis, I find that countries more dependent on trade with China are less likely to improve their protect on of civil liberties, but no more likely to experience decline in civil liberties. This article contributes to the growing authoritarian diffusion literature and provides nuance to the typically oversimplified discussion of Chinese engagement with Africa.

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Political Regimes and Refugee Entries: Motivations behind Refugees and Host Governments

Authors: Masaaki Higashijima, Yu Jin Woo

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 34. August 2020.

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What drives refugee movements? Focusing on host countries’ domestic conditions, we argue that refugee entry is determined by their political regimes that shape the incentives of both host governments and refugees. Specifically, we theorize that there is an inverted U-shaped relationship between political regimes and the volume of refugees. When a host country is highly autocratic, refugee volume turns small, because refugees are less willing to enter those countries due to uncertainty over post-entry treatment; when host countries are highly democratic, refugee volume decreases again, because democratic leaders are constrained by negative public opinion toward refugees. Using a global data set (143 countries, 1951-2016), we perform a series of statistical analyses and find strong evidence in support of our theoretical expectations. We also test implications on the preferences of both refugees and host governments, demonstrating that democracies attract a larger number of refugee-status applications, yet these countries are less likely to confer formal refugee status to asylum-seekers.

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Academic Freedom and the Quality of Democracy in Africa

Authors: Hajer Kratou, Liisa Laakso

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 33. June 2020.

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This paper analyzes the relationship between academic freedom and democracy, more precisely the impact of past experience of politically active scholars on subsequent quality of elections and the accountability of the executive. The empirical analysis covers Africa in the period 1980-2018. As a politically heterogeneous and changing continent, Africa provides adequate variety to investigate the role of scholars in democratic consolidation after democratic transitions in the early 1990s. Using the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) database and the Generalized method of moments (GMM system) technique to estimate a dynamic panel model, our study finds a positive impact of academic freedom on democracy for a sample of 52 countries. We look in more detail at deviant cases with a counterintuitive relationship. The key finding is that this result is robust when we check the reversal causality and country-specific effects such as the initial level of democracy or the dependence on oil exportation. The study highlights the significance of scholars as a channel through which high levels of education supports democratic consolidation.

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Government-Sponsored Fake News Worsens Epidemics of Respiratory Infections Including the Coronavirus: Global Survey


Thung-Hong Lin, Min-Chiao Chang, Ya-Hsuan Chou, Chun-Chih Chang

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 32. June 2020.

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The growth of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has prompted some government-sponsored Internet disinformation campaigns. We assumed that government-sponsored disinformation may deteriorate infectious disease epidemics through three mechanisms: ineffective coping, institutional distrust, and stigma avoidances. By employing global surveys across 144 countries for the period 2000–2017, we examined the association between government-sponsored disinformation and the spread of respiratory infections before the COVID-19 outbreak. After controlling for climatic, public health, socioeconomic, and political factors, we observed that government-sponsored disinformation significantly increased the incidence, prevalence, and death percentages of respiratory infections in populations. These empirical results thus deliver a warning: To contain the damage from pandemics, governments must immediately stop sponsoring disinformation campaigns. Because these respiratory infections share a common transmission pathway with COVID-19, our findings shed light on the mechanisms through which information environments play a major role in the management of modern pandemics.

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Courts and the Constitutional Erosion of Democracy in Latin America

Author: Azul A. Aguiar-Aguilar

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 31. May 2020.

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In constitutional democracies, courts are becoming a beloved device of incumbents to make their dream come true: remain unchecked in power. Playing by the rules set in the democratic game, elected anti-democrats use their power to erode democracy by capturing electoral management bodies, extending term limits, harassing journalism or shifting power from the legislative to the executive. What is the role of courts in this tale? Independent and empowered courts are a blockage to elected anti-democrats who seek to control other institutions with a veneer of legality. Thus, instead of unlawfully increasing their share of power, elected anti-democrats choose to capture high courts to pave their way in changing the rules of the game. With the court on their side, the constitutionality of their undemocratic moves is undisputed. Here starts democratic erosion.

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Russia: Citizen Demonstrations in

an Electoral Autocracy

Authors: Armando Chaguaceda, Claudia González

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 30. May 2020.

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Last summer, Moscow was the scenario for the major political demonstrations ever since the broad circle of protests from 2011 to 2012. The mobilizations erupted from the blockade of the authorities to the registration of opposition candidates for the local elections in Moscow. As completion of a series of citizen protests, spread throughout the country for different causes –the project to build a church in a public park in Yekaterinburg, the settlement of a garbage dump in Arkhangelsk, the reform of the pension system, the imprisonment of journalist Ivan Golunov– these actions represented a modest but real challenge to the political regime. Which context, development and possible implications we propose to analyze below in closed relation with the nature of “managed democracy” methods within Russia's regime of electoral autocracy, as well as the upgrading of technological tools towards both consequences: political pluralism and civic practice´s constrain.

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Political Networks across the Globe

Authors: Simon Commander, Stavros Poupakis

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 29. May 2020.

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Political networks are an important feature of the political and economic landscape of countries. Despite their ubiquity and significance, information on such networks has proven hard to collect due to a pervasive lack of transparency. However, with the advent of big data and artificial intelligence, major financial services institutions are now actively collating publicly available information on politically exposed persons and their networks. In this study, we use one such data set to show how network characteristics vary across political systems. We provide results from more than 150 countries and show how the format of the network tends to reflect the extent of democratisation of each country. We also outline further avenues for research using such data.

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Multi-level Modelling of Time-Series Cross-Sectional Data Reveals the Dynamic Interaction between Ecological Threats and Democratic Development

Authors: Kodai Kusano, Markus Kemmelmeier

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 28. April 2020.

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This paper has originally been published at Royal Society Open Science.

What is the relationship between environment and democracy? The framework of cultural evolution suggests that societal development is an adaptation to ecological threats. Pertinent theories assume that democracy emerges as societies adapt to ecological factors such as higher economic wealth, lower pathogen threats, less demanding climates and fewer natural disasters. However, previous research confused within-country processes with between-country processes and erroneously interpreted between-country findings as if they generalize to within-country mechanisms. We analyse a time-series cross-sectional dataset to study the dynamic relationship between environment and democracy (1949–2016), accounting for previous misconceptions in levels of analysis. By separating within-country processes from between-country processes, we find that the relationship between environment and democracy not only differs by country but also depends on the level of analysis. Economic wealth predicts increasing levels of democracy in between-country comparisons, but within-country comparisons show that democracy declines in years when countries become wealthier. This relationship is only prevalent among historically wealthy countries but not among historically poor countries, whose wealth also increased over time. By contrast, pathogen prevalence predicts lower levels of democracy in both between country and within-country comparisons. Multi-level modelling also confirms that the within country effect of pathogen prevalence remains robust even after considering a region-level analysis. Longitudinal analyses identifying temporal precedence reveal that not only reductions in pathogen prevalence drive future democracy, but also democracy reduces future pathogen prevalence and increases future wealth. These nuanced results contrast with previous analyses using narrow, cross-sectional data. Overall, our findings illuminate the dynamic process by which environment and democracy shape each other.

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Digital Repression in Autocracies

Authors: Erica Frantz, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Joseph Wright

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 27. March 2020.

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The rise of the digital age initially spread optimism about the potential for democratic change. Those hopes were soon dashed, however, as autocracies learned how to use digital tools to further their interests. In this paper, we leverage data from the Digital Society Project to illustrate a number of important trends with respect to the use of digital repression in autocracies. First, and not surprisingly, we show that reliance on digital repression in dictatorships is on the rise; more dictatorships use digital repression than ever before. The evidence shows that they are wise to do so. We find that digital repression lowers the risk of protest in dictatorships. Importantly, we also find that dictatorships are using digital repression in tandem with more "high-intensity" forms of repression. This suggests that digital repression is not serving as a substitute for more brute repressive acts, but instead as a complement to them. Lastly, we find that some evidence that digital repression is associated with more durable dictatorship. This ending is both relatively small and statistically insigniffcant in the relatively short panel series, however.

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The Academic Freedom Index and Other New Indicators Relating to Academic Space: An Introduction

Authors: Janika Spannagel, Katrin Kinzelbach, Ilyas Saliba

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 26. March 2020.

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The Academic Freedom Index is the first conceptually thorough assessment of academic freedom worldwide and dates back to 1900. While some previous datasets exist, they are geographically limited and methodologically or conceptually insufficient to offer a comprehensive picture of the levels of academic freedom across time and space. This users' working paper introduces the new dataset, including the Academic Freedom Index, discusses its advantages compared to other types of data, details the conceptualization of the new indicators, and offers a content and convergent validation of the results. The new dataset provides ample opportunities for policymakers, advocates and scholars to monitor and analyze patterns and trends of academic freedom around the world.

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Better Regime Cutoffs for Continuous Democracy Measures

Authors: Yuko Kasuya, Kota Mori

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 25. October 2019

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Many vital questions in comparative politics and international relations concern the transition to and from democracy. This tradition makes the measurement of democracy, in particular, the threshold between democracy and non-democracy, a crucial issue. However, the field is filled with arbitrary and inconsistent uses of democracy cutos. We examine the validity of the cut points suggested by the most frequently used continuous measures of democracy, namely, Freedom House (FH), Polity, and the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem). Our analyses use the binary measures of democracy as the reference because they reflect a theoretically informed set of conditions of democracy, a feature that is lacking in the continuous measures’ cut points. In particular, we presume that the preferred threshold should achieve the highest consistency with the binary measures’ coding when the regime is defined based on that threshold. Our analyses find that such cutos are 3.7 for FH, 4.5 for Polity, and 0.42 for V-Dem, rather than those suggested by the providers of these measures (2.5, 6, and 0.5 respectively). This finding implies that three continuous measures of democracy set standards for democracy higher than the binary measures.

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How a Democracy Survives: Explaining the Process of Democratic Consolidation in Benin

Author: Fredrik Björksten

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 24. October 2019

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Benin, an impoverished nation in West Africa, has been consistently ranked as one of Africa’s best democracies. While countries in the region have seen major democratic backlashes, this study seeks to explain how it is that Benin’s democracy has survived since 1991. This paper operationalises a theoretical framework of democratic consolidation based on three approaches— structures, attitudes and behaviour — through 11 factors. In applying this framework to the case, the research analyses qualitative data longitudinally (through inter-country time comparisons) and cross-sectionally (with similar nations in the region). It then triangulates the findings with qualitative scholarly remarks and suggests the explanatory value for each factor. Based on the findings, I argue that Benin’s democratic survival, ultimately, is dependent on a lack of any major anti-democratic behaviour from its main political actors. This absence is likely attributed to strong institutional constraints on the presidency as well as a favourable prodemocracy attitudinal basis which have, likely, incentivised actors to behave democratically. However, the findings also indicate that several factors promoted in the field are not applicable to this case. Economic structures of income inequality and GDP per capita, as well as the institutionalisation of the party system, cannot account for the democratic survival in Benin.


Preaching Democracy: The Second Vatican Council and the Third Wave

Authors: Thomas Barnebeck, Andersen Peter Sandholt Jensen 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 23. September 2019

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We use variation in religious doctrine produced by the unexpected Second Vatican Council (1962-65) to investigate the impact of religion on democratization. The Council, which transformed the Catholic Church from defender of the ancien régime into a leading apostle of religious freedom, human rights and democracy, represents the most significant example of institutionalized religious change since the Protestant Reformation. We adopt a difference-in-difference approach to estimate the Council’s impact on democracy. Furthermore, we provide historical narratives on how the post-conciliar Catholic Church influenced the democratization process in different national contexts. Our research substantiates that the Church played a decisive role in third wave democratization. 


Autocracies and Human Development

Author: Andrea Cassani

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 22. June 2019

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The idea of a connection between a country’s political institutions and its human development record is not new, but attention has mostly focused on comparing democratic and non-democratic regimes. The possible implications of the institutional differences characterizing the non-democratic universe have remained largely disregarded. Accordingly, this paper examines how different institutional environments could shape the importance that autocrats attach to improving citizens’ living conditions. The discussion suggests that so-called competitive autocracies, which hold elections and allow for some degree of contestation, face stronger pressures to improve citizen living conditions. Based on an updated version of the V-Dem Regimes of the World index that distinguishes competitive from hegemonic-party electoral autocracies and different forms of closed autocracy, and using data on school enrolment and child mortality for the 1971-2015 period, autocracy’s comparative human development performance is analysed. The main finding is that competitive autocracies outperform other non-democratic regimes, with the exception of hereditary regimes.


Mexico: Political Change and Delegative Democracy

Author: Armando Chaguaceda

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 21. June 2019

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The scenario resulting from the 1 July 2018 presidential election is configuring in Mexico a delegative democracy with wide support for incumbant, rapid growth of hegemonic power and uncertain consequences for the nation’s sociopolitical life. 


Electoral Systems and Income Inequality: A Tale of Political Equality

Author: Izaskun Zuazu

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 20. November 2018

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Political economy literature has so far failed to offer a consensus on the effect of political institutions such as regime type (democracy vs. autocracy) and electoral systems (majoritarian vs. proportional representation) on within-country income inequality. Beyond the inequality effects of these de jure political institutions, this paper finds robust evidence that de facto distribution of political power crucially matters to income inequality. Based on a panel database of 121 countries for the period from 1960 to 2007, the results consistently associate even distributions of political power across socio-economic groups with lower levels of income inequality. The scale of this effect hinges upon the proportionality of electoral systems. However, regime type and electoral system are not consistently associated with a signicant impact on income inequality.


Violent Democratizations and Scandinavian Exceptionalism

Author: David Andersen

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 19. October 2018

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Scholars increasingly look to Scandinavia for better formulas of sustainable democracy. One core feature of Scandinavian exceptionalism, they hold, is that the paths to democracy in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were relatively peaceful. As a precondition for pursuing this agenda, I conduct the first systematic, empirical scrutiny of whether Scandinavian democratization periods were in fact exceptionally peaceful. By combining Varieties of Democracy and Historical Varieties of Democracy data, I construct a new measure of democratization, based on multiple dimensions of democracy and protracted periods before and shortened periods after democratization events, and a new measure of violent anti-systemic movements. Statistical analyses for a global sample of countries from 1789 to 2017 show that there was indeed a Scandinavian exception of peaceful democratization, but only consistently so when we compare Scandinavian democratizations of competitive elections and suffrage with the rest of Europe before 1946. The results are robust to different specifications of democratization periods, regional diffusion of democratization that instruments for the domestic democratization effect, the sequence theory of liberalization followed by extension of participation, and using extant measures of the dependent and independent variables. I argue that future research needs to reinvestigate the origins of peaceful democratization in Scandinavia from late 18th to early 20th century.


On the Social Organization of Governments: Conceptualizing and Testing the Political Determinants of Health

Author: Andrew C. Patterson

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 18. September 2018

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A burgeoning research area asks whether political factors can affect population health. Risk of losing a forthcoming election, for instance, arguably motivates leaders in democracies to adopt policies that best promote health. However, less population health research considers more specific roles in democratic governments or other, unelected roles. To address these gaps, this study compares cross-national life expectancies and infant mortality rates across 167 countries according to political data drawn from the Varieties of Democracy Project. A series of regression models test whether population health is better in countries with 1) proportional and/or mixed-member electoral rules, 2) independence of the highest court from political interference, and 3) appointments of state administrators based on merit rather than nepotistic social ties. Subsequent models test, respectively, whether 4) deliberative consensus, 5) transparency / predictability of court behaviour, or 4) political corruption mediate relationships between political structures and population health. Findings most consistently suggest that meritocratic recruitment of state administrators may promote stronger life expectancy and infant health by curbing corruption. The independence of a country’s highest court from political interference also appears to promote population health, although this finding is most consistent with respect to infant mortality. Proportional and mixed-member electoral rules relate to these outcomes only when tested separately, while deliberative consensus is at best a modest mediator thereof. Findings altogether suggest population health may be traceable to institutional protocols that shape the roles of government actors. Further work is needed to corroborate this view.


Democracy and Trade Liberalisation

Author: Ashvinder Singh Pramjit Singh

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 17. September 2018

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In the 20thcentury, waves of democratisation and the concurrent rush to free trade worldwide prompted many scholars to research the link between democracy and trade liberalisation. Despite scholars agreeing that democratisation positively affects trade liberalisation, no consensus prevails on which specific aspect of democracy matters most and through which mechanism that it affects trade liberalisation. By building on Mayer’s (1984) application of the Median Voter Theorem, this dissertation argues that democratisation affects trade liberalisation by allowing the preferences of the owners of abundant factors to be represented in the decision/policy-making process. In other words, electoral democratic institutions mediate the representation of preferences. This argument is tested in two ways. First, by relying on a new dataset from the Varieties of Democracy project for the period 1974 to 2014 and using country-level panel data regression, preliminary analysis shows that electoral democracy matters most for trade liberalisation. Next, a Difference-in-Difference analysis finds that the extension of suffrage lowers tariffs and results in a more open trade policy for developing countries. These findings provide fresh support for the application of the Median Voter Theorem to the link between democratisation and trade liberalisation. 


Missionaries, Mechanisms, and Democracy

Authors: Kevin Angell, Jeffrey J. Harden

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 16. August 2018

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What causal pathways link Protestant missionaries to the spread of liberal democracy? Woodberry’s (2012) theoretical explanation includes three central mechanisms: the development of mass printing, the expansion of education and literacy, and the growth of civil society. However, his quantitative analyses of non-Western countries focus exclusively on the positive total effect of conversionary Protestants (CPs) on democracy. Here, we conduct a direct empirical evaluation of the mechanisms he proposes using causal mediation methods. Our results corroborate the positive total effect, but show limited support for its causal pathways. We find minimal evidence to suggest that CPs’ impact operated via mass printing or civil society. There is more support for education as a mediator, although at best it only accounted for a minority share of the total effect. We conclude that further theorizing about causal processes is necessary to strengthen the claim that Protestant missionaries contributed to democracy’s rise.


Democracy Misunderstood: Authoritarian Notions of Democracy around the Globe

Authors: Christian Welzel, Helen Kirsch

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 15. April 2018

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An intriguing observation consists in the fact that widespread support for democracy coexists in many countries with the persistent absence of democracy. Addressing this phenomenon, we show that in most places where it exists people understand democracy in ambiguous ways in which authoritarian notions mix into—and even overshadow—liberal notions, in spite of the contradiction between these two notions. In light of this contradiction, we present evidence suggesting that authoritarian notions of democracy question the authenticity of liberal ones when both are endorsed conjointly. Worse, the evidence further suggests that authoritarian notions even revert the meaning of support for democracy itself, indeed indicating support for autocracy. Arguably, this reversal in the meaning of support for democracy lends legitimacy to authoritarian rule, which helps to explain where it endures. Testing alternative explanations of authoritarian notions of democracy, we find that emancipative values are most influential, exerting a two-fold “enlightening” effect in (a) making people recognize the contradiction between liberal and authoritarian notions of democracy and (b) turning them against authoritarian notions.


Colonial Institutions and Democracy: Resisted Transitions from European Settler Oligarchies

Author: Jack Paine

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 14. April 2018

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What explains the emergence and evolution of political institutions under colonial rule? Existing research implies that European settlers engendered democracy by (1) establishing oligarchic representation and (2) later expanding the franchise. This paper rethinks the origins and evolution of colonial institutions by providing a new explanation for both sequencing steps focused on impediments  to democratizing oligarchies. First, creating representative institutions required European settlers to have a representative tradition on which to draw. This paper introduces new data on colonial legislatures from the 17th through 20th centuries and shows that early promotion of elected legislatures was mostly limited to British colonies—a metropole with a representative tradition. Second, extending class-based theories of democracy predicts perverse institutional evolution—resisted enfranchisement and contestation backsliding—because sizable European settler minorities usually composed an extractive landed class. Evidence on franchise size and on legislature disbandment from Africa, the British Caribbean, and Iberian America supports these implications.


Citizen Mobilization and Political Regime: a view from the electoral contests in Mexico and Russia (2011-2013)

Authors: Armando Chaguaceda, James G. M. D'angelo

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 13. March 2018

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This paper analyzes the protests that occurred in Mexico and Russia during the elections of 2011 and 2012. Starting from the political context of both countries, it describes the mobilizations, using contentious politics studies as a reference and a political process approach, while taking into account the various effects that reciprocal interaction between collective action and institutional policy had for both political regimes, given the different structures of opportunities and state capacities of both countries.

Five Political Regimes in Latin America, Internet Freedom and Mechanisms of Control

Authors: Iria Puyosa, Armando Chaguaceda

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 12. November 2017

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Since 2010, there has been a trend towards establishing internet control and securitization policies (Freedom House, 2016). The literature on the subject indicates that the mechanisms of internet control vary according to the type of political regimes. The objective of this work is to verify if the policies of control of internet in Latin America vary according to the type of prevailing political regime. For the study were selected five Latin American countries that are categorized as examples of different political regimes: Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba. For each case, the indicators related to freedom of expression on the internet are reported in accordance with the data provided by «Varieties of Democracy». «Freedom on the Net» categorizations are used as a complement. The results indicate that there is a correlation between political regime (measured by polyarchy index) and internet freedom. Indeed, the more autocratic the regime is, the more first-generation internet controls are observed, with censorship of contents and violations of users' rights. While in hybrid regimes second-generation controls are more commonly observed, which involve obstacles to access, without customary content blocking and network outages.


A Tale of Culture-Bound Regime Evolution: The Centennial Democratic Trend and Its Recent Reversal

Author: Christian Welzel

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 11. October 2017

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Using a new measure of “comprehensive democracy” derived from V-Dem (, my analysis traces the global democratic trend over the last 116 years, from 1900 till 2016, looking in particular at the centennial trend’s cultural zoning. Despite a burgeoning literature on resurgent authoritarianism, I find no evidence for a wholesale reversal of the centennial democratic trend, although indications for a decennial stagnation and a very recent downswing are undeniable. Whether this downswing will turn into a lasting erosion of democracy remains to be seen but seems unlikely in light of the fact that previous reverse waves have always only temporarily halted democracy’s long-term ascension. At the same time, democracy has been proceeding and continues to differentiate political regimes in a strongly culture-bound manner: high levels of democracy remain a distinctive feature of countries in which emancipative values have grown strong over the generations. By the same token, backsliding and autocratization are limited to cultures with under-developed emancipative values. In line with this finding, public support for democracy neither favors democratization, nor does it prevent autocratization in disjunction from emancipative values. On the contrary, public support for democracy shows such pro-democratic effects if—and only if—it co-exists in close association with emancipative values. The reason is that—in disconnect from emancipative values—support for democracy frequently reverts its meaning, indicating the exact opposite of what intuition suggests: namely, support for autocracy. In conclusion, the prospects for democracy are bleak where emancipative values remain weak.


Carrots or Sticks: The Choice and Impact of EU Democratic Sanctions and Aid

Authors: Paulina Pospieszna, Patrick M. Weber

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 10. October 2017

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Both the provision of democracy aid and the imposition of sanctions are tools to promote democracy. Yet, it is unclear under which conditions states choose to set positive or negative incentives. In order to answer which tool—democracy aid or democratic sanctions—is more effective, one has to analyse the actual form of the provision of aid. Sanctions and democracy aid can also be employed at the same time. The goal of this study is to determine their joint effect on democratization in recipient countries. We argue that sending civil society aid or democracy aid channeled through NGOs and the civil society when sanctions are in place, enhances the effectiveness of sanctions as a democracy promotion tool because the civil society can be empowered to introduce democratic changes in its country—so additionally to the top-down pressure created by sanctions, there is bottom-up pressure exerted by the civil society. Our results suggest that democratic sanctions are more likely to be successful if democracy aid bypasses the government in a target state. Conversely, other forms of aid provision tend to decrease the effectiveness of sanctions. In order to precisely explain the joint impact of positive and negative incentives on democratization, we employ a new comprehensive dataset on economic sanctions for the period between 1989 and 2015 which integrates and updates the Threats and Imposition of Economic Sanctions and the GIGA sanctions data sets, merged with disaggregated OECD aid data and V-Dem as well as PolityIV democracy scores.


Patterns of Late Colonialism and Democratization in Africa: Using V-Dem to Measure the Long Heritage of the Colonial State

Author: António Luís Dias

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 9. September 2017

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Between 1989 and 1995 the third (or fourth?) wave of democratization hit Sub-Saharan Africa, with mixed results. These different outcomes pose a challenge for most contemporary theories of democratization as they fail to explain this variation. So how can we explain democratization in this region? This paper will readdress this problem by re-introducing a variable that has not been fully explored: the late colonial period. During this period, that lasted from the 1930s through independence, colonial empires had to reform their rule, introducing elections with universal suffrage and local parliaments in some cases. We argue that this legacy of democratic experience in the absence of repression is a crucial factor determining a successful democratization by the end of the 20th century. Two different routes will be taken to test our hypothesis. First, we will sketch a brief historical comparison of different cases from the British and French colonial empire. Through this exercise we seek to understand if these differences did occur, how significant they were and what mechanisms might link them to a process that occurred almost three decades later. In a second moment we will use the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) database and see how it shows the differences during late colonialism and we will use it to test statistically our hypothesis.


What Were the Political Effects of Decolonization?

Authors: Alexander Lee, Jack Paine

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 8. August 2017

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Considerable research argues that European colonial rule profoundly in political and economic outcomes. One potential implication of this argument is that territories should exhibit different outcomes during and after colonial rule. We test this hypothesis for four outcomes - democracy, internal conflict, government revenues, and economic development - using unit fixed effects models. Democracy levels increased sharply in colonial autonomy years immediately prior to independence. However, conflict, revenue, and income levels exhibit no systematic differences before or after independence. The results are similar when taking into account varieties of colonial institutions and the endogenous timing of independence. Except for a novel result on the timing of democratic gains, the overall findings suggest that gaining independence was less politically consequential than heterogeneous long-term effects of colonial rule on institutions and social patterns.


Autocratic Legislatures and Party Institutionalization

Author: Matthew Charles Wilson

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 7. July 2017

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What explains the institutionalization of political parties in non-democratic settings?  Drawing on the work of scholars who portray institutions as a response to credible regime threats, I argue that institutional choice in non-democracies depends in large part on the extent to which the masses are mobilized.  In countries in which citizens posed little threat to state formation, regimes were significantly less likely to rely on party institutionalization to gain legitimacy—instead, they focused on building institutions that co-opted individual elites, which is accomplished in part through nonpartisan legislatures.  In contrast, the credibility of threats presented by mass groups prompted the emergence and strengthening of party-based rule, which did not necessarily connote democratization.  Using newly released data from the Varieties of Democracy Project (V-Dem) I evaluate the determinants of party institutionalization, showing that internal armed conflict is a positive predictor of greater party institutionalization in less democratic states.  The same is not true of the most intense conflicts, however, underscoring the difference between the threat versus the realization of large-scale revolution.  By focusing on mass opposition and party institutionalization, this study supports policymakers’ endeavors to better understand the relationship between power asymmetries, commitments, and institutions.

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The Long March: Deep Democracy in Cross-National Perspective

Authors: Mohammad Ali Kadivar, Adaner Usmani, Benjamin H. Bradlow

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 6 (3) Revised. March 2019

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Over the last several decades, dozens of dictatorships have become democracies. Yet while each has held free and fair elections, they have varied in the extent to which their citizens realize the ideal of self-rule. Why do some democracies distribute power to citizens while other democracies withhold it? Existing research is suggestive, but its implications are ambiguous. Cross-national studies have focused on democracy’s formal dimensions, while work on substantive democracy is case-based. We find that one of the most consistent and powerful explanations of substantive democratization is the length of unarmed pro-democratic mobilization prior to a transition. Through a case study of Brazil, we illustrate that these movements matter in three ways: first, because practices of self-organizing model and enable democratic reforms; second, because movement veterans use state office to deepen democracy; and third, because long movements yield civil societies with the capacity to demand the continuous deepening of democracy.


Electoral Democracy and Corruption: A Cross-National Study 

Author: Alexander Blums

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 5. June 2017

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This paper adds to the academic debate on if and how corruption levels vary with changing levels of democracy. I begin by positioning my work among existing academic research, identifying causal mechanisms for the relationship and addressing some of the concerns associated with defining and measuring corruption and democracy.  I then propose two hypotheses: (H1) that democracy levels affect perceived corruption levels in the short-term (institutional explanation) and (H2) that democracy levels affect perceived corruption in the long-term (cultural explanation). I control for other variables commonly cited in the literature, such as economic development, levels of Protestantism and colonial heritage. This is the first comparative research paper exploring the relationship between democracy and corruption to utilize the recently published “Varieties of Democracy v6.2” dataset, which contains high-quality data on historical democracy levels for most countries around the world. To test the hypotheses, I build 6 OLS regression models containing data on 173 countries, utilizing 1436 data points. Contrary to much of the academic literature, this study finds that when controlling for economic development, levels of Protestantism and colonial heritage, democracy levels remain a statistically significant predictor of corruption in both the short and long term. The results of this study suggest a need to re-visit previously popular short-term institutional explanations of corruption. The study also notes some interesting observations and identifies gaps in the literature where future research would be needed to develop a more holistic explanation of corruption.


Correlation of Democracy Indicators and Markets Returns 

Authors: Scott Axelrod, James Leitner

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 4. December 2016

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We perform various experiments correlating past changes of social indicators about a country with future stock market returns for that country. The 169 social indicators we use, which go back as far as the year 1900, are available from the Varieties of Democracy Project. We use two sets of data for country-wide stock market returns: data compiled by Dimson, Marsh, and Staunton covers 17 countries going back to 1900, and data from the MSCI data analytics and index service covering 45 countries going back as far as 1970. We consider five and ten year time windows. This gives us four different “studies”: MSCI 10 year, DMS 10 year, MSCI 5 year, and DMS 5 year.

We find the striking result that good changes of the social indicators have a positive mean (averaged over studies) total correlation (correlation of change vectors indexed by country-year pairs) with future stock market returns in 157 out of 158 cases in which the indicator measures something good or bad for society. We obtain a result almost as strong when the correlation is aggregated differently using the separate country and year groupings. We perform statistical hypothesis testing to show that, even though the social indicators are not all independent, these result are exceedingly unlikely to be the result of random (white noise) stock market returns.

We also perform “positive linear regression” of stock market return on all 158 indicators, which means that the sign of the regression coefficient for an indicator is constrained to be positive or negative according to whether a positive change of the indicator is good or bad. The fraction of data explained by positive regression is shown to be extremely statistical significant. We calculate a confidence interval for the percentage of data genuinely explained by regression, not just by fitting to noise. The lower end of the confidence window for the four studies is 11%, 14%, 6%, and 9%.

We include a long appendix on the statistical theory of correlation and (unconstrained) regression. This provides background to the novel applications of hypothesis testing and confidence interval calculation in the body of the paper. 


Nonviolent Resistance and the Quality of Democracy 

Authors: Felix S. Bethke, Jonathan Pinckney 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 3. July 2016

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Previous research has shown that successful nonviolent resistance (NVR) campaigns are more likely to promote the growth of democratic political systems compared to violent revolutions. The decentralized organizational structure and pluralistic practices of nonviolent campaigns serve as a template for future political arrangements during and after the initial democratic transition. However, research to date has not disaggregated this finding to address the mechanisms and pathways that produce these effects on democratic quality. In this paper we address this gap by analyzing the effect of NVR on the quality of democracy for a sample of 101 regimes between 1945 and 2010, using an index of polyarchy and its sub-components: (1) elected executive, (2) free and fair elections, (3) freedom of expression, (4) associational autonomy, and (5) inclusive citizenship. Using local linear matching and differences-in- differences estimation, we find that initiating a democratic transition through NVR improves democratic quality after transition significantly and substantially relative to cases without this characteristic. Our analysis of the sub-components of polyarchy reveals that this positive effect comes about primarily due to improvements in freedom of expression, with no significant difference along the other dimensions of polyarchy.  


Democracies in Crisis: How Do Levels of Democracy Affect Economic Outcomes in Crises of the Developing World? 

Author: Dash Holland 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 2. June 2016

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This paper estimates how levels and changes of democracy affect economic outcomes around economic crises, using yearly data from the Varieties of Democracy project. I observe the different impacts on factors like the debt-to-GDP ratio, GDP growth, and the exchange rate to the US dollar. While my model finds statistically significant results for many of these factors, the overall impact of democracy is found to be small and appears to be specific to certain regions or specific economic crises rather than having a generalizable trend. I also discuss possible limitations to my findings. 


Democracy and State Capacity Revisited: An Investigation of Democracy’s Consequences for State Capacity 

Author: Lasse Egendal Leipziger 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 1. June 2016

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Does democracy foster increased state capacity? An answer to this question has crucial implications for many countries that have democratized during the Third Wave of Democratization but demonstrate serious shortcomings in terms of state capacity. In this paper, I critically examine existing theoretical work on the topic, in particular the notion of J-shaped relationship, and subsequently develop three causal pathways through which democracy might enhance the administrative capacity of the state. Two hypotheses are derived expecting a) that a country’s level of democracy affects its administrative capacity, and b) that the duration of the democratic regime affects its administrative capacity. The hypotheses are subjected to empirical assessment trough a statistical, time-series cross-sectional analysis of 122 countries during the third wave. For this purpose, I use V-Dem data1 which is arguably better suited for the empirical assessment compared to existing indicators. The results from the empirical evaluation suggest that the contemporary level of democracy has no robust impact whereas the extent of experience with democracy appears to have a positive and substantively interesting effect. I conclude that democracy does advance state administrative capacity, but only when considered as a cumulative, historical phenomenon.