Reversing the Global Democratic Recession

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Reversing the Global Democratic Recession Blog Image

Why in News?

  • India is amid its most significant electoral exercise and it might be worthwhile to scrutinise people’s changing perceptions about their political ecosystems.
  • India, as the world's largest democracy, provides a fascinating case study for examining evolving perceptions of democracy, both within its borders and in smaller democratic spaces globally.
  • Through a detailed analysis of a Pew Research Centre survey conducted across 24 countries and the shifting attitudes towards democratic governance, it is important to explore the global situation and potential future courses of action.

Global Disenchantment with Democracy

  • The Pew Research Centre’s global survey conducted in 2023, encompassing 30,861 respondents, reveals a significant erosion of trust in democratic systems worldwide.
  • While 77% of respondents express optimism about representative democracy, there is a worrisome receptivity to alternative governance models.
  • Notably, support for representative democracy has diminished since 2017, contrasting with robust endorsements of direct democracy, rule by experts, and authoritarian government models.

Regional Variations and Trends Observed in the Evolving Perceptions of Democracy

  • Shift towards Rule by Experts and Authoritarianism
    • Across regions, there is a discernible trend towards favouring rule by experts and authoritarian governance models.
    • This shift is particularly pronounced in countries facing challenges such as economic instability, political unrest, or perceived inefficiencies in democratic processes.
    • Citizens in these regions often perceive democracies as slow-moving and ineffective in addressing pressing issues, leading to a growing acceptance of concentrated power and decisive leadership.
  • Socioeconomic Factors Influence Preferences
    • Socioeconomic factors play a crucial role in shaping governance preferences.
    • Respondents from lower-income countries with limited access to education tend to endorse 'strong' leaders and military rule.
    • These preferences may stem from a desire for stability and economic development, as authoritarian regimes are often perceived as more capable of delivering immediate solutions to complex problems.
  • Cultural and Historical Context
    • Regional variations in perceptions of democracy are also influenced by cultural and historical factors.
    • Countries with a history of authoritarianism or centralised governance structures may exhibit greater receptivity to authoritarian models.
    • Similarly, cultural norms regarding leadership, hierarchy, and decision-making processes can shape attitudes towards democracy and alternative governance systems.
  • Resistance to Authoritarianism in Some Regions
    • While support for authoritarianism is on the rise in certain regions, it faces resistance in others.
    • Countries with a strong tradition of liberal democracy, such as Canada, Europe, the Scandinavian nations, and the United States, continue to prioritise democratic values and institutions.
    • In these regions, there is a robust commitment to democratic norms, civil liberties, and the rule of law, which serves as a bulwark against the erosion of democratic principles.

Indian Perception of Democracy

  • Shift in Preference for a Powerful Leader
    • Indian perceptions of democracy have witnessed a notable shift in recent years, marked by a declining favourability towards representative democracy and a growing inclination towards authoritarian leadership.
    • While in 2017, 44% of Indians favoured representative democracy, this figure decreased to 36% by 2023.
    • Conversely, the preference for a powerful leader with significant authority increased from 55% in 2017 to 67% in 2023.
  • Rising Support for Rule by Experts
    • Similar to global trends, Indian attitudes towards governance have shown an upward trajectory in support for rule by experts and authoritarian models.
    • The endorsement of rule by experts soared from 65% to an impressive 82% over the same period.
    • Notably, the most striking shift is the overwhelming preference for military rule or governance by an authoritarian leader, with a staggering 85% of Indians expressing support for such models by 2023.
  • Diverse Regional Perspectives
    • It is essential to recognise that perceptions of democracy may vary across different regions and demographic groups within India.
    • While certain segments of the population may express support for authoritarian leadership, others may remain committed to democratic values and institutions.
    • Factors such as education, socioeconomic status, and cultural background can influence individuals' attitudes towards governance.

Ways Ahead to Strengthen the Democratic Foundations

  • Participatory Governance
    • At the heart of a strong democracy lies active citizen participation in the decision-making process.
    • Governments must create mechanisms and platforms that enable meaningful engagement and involvement of citizens in policymaking, governance, and public affairs.
    • This can include initiatives such as town hall meetings, participatory budgeting, citizen assemblies, and digital platforms for feedback and consultation.
  • Free and Equal Access to Information
    • Transparency and access to information are fundamental to democratic governance.
    • Governments should ensure that citizens have unrestricted access to accurate and reliable information about government actions, policies, and decision-making processes.
    • This may involve strengthening freedom of information laws, enhancing government transparency and accountability mechanisms, and promoting investigative journalism and media literacy.
  • Accountable and Just Governance
    • Democratic governance requires institutions that are accountable to the people they serve and uphold the rule of law.
    • Governments should establish robust checks and balances, independent judiciary, and effective oversight mechanisms to prevent abuse of power and ensure accountability.
    • Furthermore, efforts should be made to promote equality before the law and protect the rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups.
  • Promotion of Civic Engagement and Civil Society
    • Civil society organisations play a vital role in promoting democratic values, advocating for citizen rights, and holding governments accountable.
    • Governments should create an enabling environment for civil society to operate freely, including protecting freedom of association, expression, and assembly.
    • Collaboration between government and civil society can foster dialogue, cooperation, and mutual understanding, strengthening democratic governance.
  • Ethical Leadership and Public Service
    • Ethical leadership and public service are essential for the integrity and legitimacy of democratic institutions.
    • Governments should promote a culture of public service and ethical conduct among elected officials, bureaucrats, and other public servants.
    • This includes measures to prevent corruption, promote transparency and integrity in government, and hold individuals accountable for misconduct.
  • Responsive and Inclusive Policies and Mechanism of Dialogue
    • Democratic governments must prioritise policies that address the needs and concerns of all citizens, particularly marginalised and underrepresented groups.
    • This requires proactive efforts to promote social justice, economic equality, and inclusivity in decision-making processes.
    • Governments should engage with diverse stakeholders, listen to their voices, and tailor policies to ensure that no one is left behind.


  • The evolving perceptions of democracy, as evidenced by the Pew Research Centre survey and India's democratic landscape, underscore the need for a critical examination of democratic systems worldwide.
  • By addressing regional variations, understanding shifting attitudes, and prioritising foundational strengthening efforts, nations can navigate the challenges and opportunities of democratic governance in the 21st century.

Q) What is the significance of Indian Democracy on the global stage?

Indian Democracy serves as a beacon of diversity and unity, showcasing how a multi-cultural, multilingual society can thrive under democratic principles. Its sheer size and vibrant democratic processes make it a crucial player in global geopolitics, representing the aspirations of millions and providing a counterbalance to authoritarian regimes.

Q) How does Indian Democracy address challenges of governance in a diverse society?

Indian Democracy employs a federal system that grants states significant autonomy, allowing for tailored governance to accommodate diverse cultural, linguistic, and regional identities. Additionally, mechanisms like reservation policies and affirmative action promote inclusivity, striving to bridge socio-economic disparities and ensure representation for marginalised communities.

Source:The Hindu