A dataset containing Tatu Vanhanen's measures of democracy. To cite use Vanhanen, Tatu. 2019. Measures of Democracy 1810-2018 (dataset). Version 8.0 (2019-06-17). Tampere. <URL: http://urn.fi/urn:nbn:fi:fsd:T-FSD1289>. Data available at https://services.fsd.tuni.fi/catalogue/FSD1289?tab=summary&lang=en&study_language=en.




An object of class tbl_df (inherits from tbl, data.frame) with 16849 rows and 9 columns.

An object of class tbl_df (inherits from tbl, data.frame) with 8965 rows and 7 columns.


Vanhanen, Tatu. Measures of Democracy 1810-2012 (computer file). FSD1289, version 6.0 (2014-01-31). Vanhanen, Tatu & Lundell, Krister (data collection). Tampere. Finnish Social Science Data Archive (distributor), 2014. Data available at http://www.fsd.uta.fi/english/data/catalogue/FSD1289/meF1289e.html



The country name in the original dataset.




From Vanhanen's introduction to the dataset: The smaller parties' share of the votes cast in parliamentary or presidential elections, or both, is used to indicate the degree of competition. It is calculated by subtracting the percentage of votes won by the largest party from 100. If the largest party gets, for example, 40 percent of the votes, the share of the smaller parties is 60 percent. If data on the distribution of votes are not available, the value of this variable is calculated on the basis of the distribution of seats in parliament. The distribution of seats is used also in cases in which it seems to indicate power relations more realistically than the distribution of votes.


From Vanhanen's introduction to the dataset: The percentage of the population which actually voted in the same elections is used to measure the degree of participation (= Participation). This percentage is calculated from the total population, not from the adult or enfranchized population. I use the total population as the basis of calculation because more statistical data are available on total populations than on age structures of electorates. In principle, these two empirical variables are very simple and easy to use. In practice, however, there are several points where more detailed rules of interpretation are needed.

Definition of a party

First, it is necessary to define what is meant by 'a party' and 'the largest party' in these calculations. My basic assumption is that the relative strength of the largest political party provides the most realistic indicator of the distribution of political power in modern states. Competing groups have formed more or less permanent political parties since the nineteenth century, but it is not always obvious which groups should be regarded as 'parties.' Historically, factions, political cliques and groups of notables preceded parties. Parties as we understand them have emerged since the first half of the nineteenth century (see Duverger 1954; LaPalombara and Weiner 1966; Sartori 1976; von Beyme 1984; Blondel 1995). Many definitions of political parties emphasize that a party is an organized group and that its principal aim is to win political power (Michels 1962; LaPalombara and Weiner 1966). According to Giovanni Sartori (1976: 63-64): 'A party is any political group identified by an official label that presents at elections, and is capable of placing through elections (free or non-free), candidates for public office.' I think that this definition provides sufficient criteria to distinguish 'parties' and 'the largest party' from other political groups. It is plausible to regard as 'parties' all political groups which take part in elections and are identified by an official label. Usually, but not always, it is easy to distinguish between parties taking part in elections. Party alliances are problematic. It is not always clear whether the alliance or its individual member parties should be regarded as 'parties.' In such cases, a party's behaviour in elections is used as the decisive criterion. If a party belongs to a larger alliance permanently, we are not justified in regarding it as a separate party. The alliance should then be treated as a separate 'party,' because the purpose is to measure the relative strength of competing and independent groups.

In parliamentary elections 'the largest party' refers to the party which received the largest single share of the votes or of the seats in parliament. Sometimes, depending on the type of electoral system, the proportion of seats may be considerably higher than the proportion of votes, whereas the reverse situation is hardly possible.

In presidential elections, the term 'largest party' refers to the votes received by the presidential candidate who won the election. A problem is, however, whether we should take into account the first or the second round votes, if there are two rounds of voting. The percentage of votes obtained by the winning candidate may be significantly higher in the second round than in the first. The round of voting, if it is not the first round, is indicated in country tables. The purpose has been to take into account the round that reflects the strength of parties and political groups most reliably.

Indirect elections and elections without parties

Interpretation is needed in indirect elections, too. How should we calculate the degree of participation in such elections? My basic rule has been that only votes cast in final election are counted. When president is elected by indirect elections, usually by parliament, only the number of actual electors is taken into account, which means that the degree of participation drops to zero. The same interpretation is applied to indirect parliamentary elections (in China, for example). However, if the real election takes place at the election of electors, as in the presidential elections of the United States, the number of votes and the distribution of votes in that election are taken into account.

Another problem of interpretation concerns countries where members of parliament are elected but political parties are not allowed to take part in elections, or to form party groups in parliament after elections. Such election results are usually interpreted to mean that one party has taken all the votes or the seats. This interpretation is based on the assumption that the ruling group does not allow political competition for power in elections. Parties are absent from elections because they are banned. In such cases the "largest party's" share is assumed to be 100 percent.

The situation is different in countries in which only independent candidates participate in elections, although parties are not banned and although it would be legally possible to establish parties (Micronesia, for example). In such cases it is plausible to assume that elections are competitive and that elected members of parliament are not controlled by any particular political group or by the government. Independent members of parliament may form at least temporary political groups in the parliament freely. Therefore, it is assumed in such cases that the "largest party's" share is not higher than 30 percent.

Non-elected governmental institutions

A different question of interpretation arises in cases where the composition of a governmental institution using the highest executive or legislative power is not based on popular election. How should the degree of competition and the degree of participation be measured in such cases? According to my interpretation, the share of the smaller parties and the degree of electoral participation are zero in such cases. Power is concentrated in the hands of the ruling group. This interpretation applies to military and revolutionary regimes, to other non-elected autocratic governments, provisional governments, and to monarchies in which the ruler and the government responsible to the ruler dominate and exercise executive and usually also legislative power. There are many such historical as well as contemporary cases. In all these cases the "largest party's" share is assumed to be 100 percent and the degree of participation zero.

Dominant governmental institutions

The calculation of the values of competition and participation can be based on parliamentary or presidential/executive elections, or both. In each case it is necessary to decide which governmental institution and election should be taken into account. This depends on the assumed importance of the two governmental institutions. The relative importance of parliaments and presidents (or other heads of state) varies greatly, but usually these two governmental institutions are, at least formally, the most important institutions wielding political power. Depending on how power is divided between them, we can speak of parliamentary and presidential forms of government. In the former, the legislature is dominant. The executive branch is dependent on and responsible to the legislative branch. In the latter, the executive branch is dominant and is not responsible to the legislature. But it is also possible for their powers to be so well balanced that neither has clear dominance. Thus we can distinguish three institutional power arrangements at the national level: (a) parliamentary dominance, (b) executive dominance, and (c) concurrent powers. In the first case the values of competition and participation are calculated on the basis of parliamentary elections, in the second they are calculated on the basis of presidential or other executive elections (or the lack of elections), and in the third case both possible elections are taken into account.

If the support of competing parties is about the same in both elections (as in the United States, for example), it does not make much difference how the governmental system is classified in order to calculate the values of competition and participation, but if the electoral systems are significantly different in parliamentary and presidential elections, an incorrect classification of the country's governmental system might distort the results of the measurement. The same is true if the powers of the two institutions differ crucially. I have attempted to classify each country's governmental institutions as realistically as possible. All classifications of governmental systems are indicated in country tables.

Interpretation in the classification of governmental systems has been needed especially in the cases in which the results of presidential elections are based on the second round of voting. Because in such cases the share of the elected president tends to be 50.0 percent or higher, it is useful to check the relative strength of parties by taking parliamentary elections into account, too.

When both elections are taken into account (concurrent powers), it is necessary to weight the relative importance of parliamentary and presidential elections. Usually it is reasonable to give equal weight (50 percent) to both elections, but in some cases it may be more realistic to give a weight of 75 or 25 percent to parliamentary elections and 25 or 75 percent to presidential (executive) elections. In most cases it is relatively easy to decide which of the two branches of government is dominant and which elections should be taken into account, but some cases are open to different interpretations. The same applies to the weighting of the two branches in the cases of concurrent powers. The classifications of the governmental systems and changes of the governmental systems are indicated in each country table. In the cases of "concurrent powers," the estimated relative importance of the two branches of government is also indicated (50-50 percent, 25-75 percent, or 75-25 percent).


From Vanhanen's introduction to the dataset: The two basic indicators of democratization can be used separately to measure the level of democracy, but, because they are assumed to indicate two different dimensions of democratization, it is reasonable to argue that a combination of them would be a more realistic indicator of democracy than either of them alone. They can be combined in many ways, depending on how we weight the importance of Competition and Participation. Some researchers (see, for example, Bollen 1979, 1980; Coppedge and Reinicke 1988) have excluded the degree of electoral participation from their measures of democracy because they think that it does not represent a significant differentiating aspect of democracy. My argument is that participation is probably as important dimension of democracy as competition. If only a small minority of the adult population takes part in elections, the electoral struggle for power is restricted to the upper stratum of the population, and the bulk of the population remains outside national politics. Power sharing is then certainly more superficial than in societies where the majority of the adult population takes part in elections (of course, presupposing that elections are competitive). Because I am not sure which of these two dimensions of democratization is more important and how much more important, I have weighted them equally in the Index of Democratization (ID). This is an arbitrary choice, but it is based on the assumption that both dimensions are equally important and necessary for democratization.

However, the decision to weight them equally does not solve the problem of how to combine them. One way would be to calculate their arithmetic mean. Another way is to multiply them. We could also use a mixture of adding and multiplying, for example, by first multiplying them and then adding 25 percent (or some other percentage) of the values of both indicators to the index. The first combination would be based on the assumption that both dimensions indicate the degree of democracy independently and that a high level of competition can partly compensate for the lack of participation, or vice versa. The second combination is based on the assumption that both dimensions are necessary for democracy and that a high level of competition cannot compensate the lack of participation, or vice versa. I have come to the conclusion that the latter assumption is theoretically better than the former one because it is plausible to assume that both dimensions are important for democracy. So the two indicators - Competition and Participation - are combined into an Index of Democratization (ID) by multiplying them and dividing the outcome by 100.

The decision to weight indicators equally and to multiply them means that a low value for either of the two variables is enough to keep the index value low. A high level of participation cannot compensate for the lack of competition, or vice versa. The Index of Democratization gets high values only if the values of both basic variables are high. Multiplication of the two percentages corrects one fault in Participation variable mentioned above, namely, that this indicator thus not differentiate between important and formal elections. There have been and still are countries where the level of electoral participation is high but the level of democracy low, because elections are not free and competitive. Multiplication of the two percentages cancels the misleading information provided by Participation in such cases and produces a low ID value. The same correction takes place in opposite cases, when the level of competition is high but the degree of electoral participation low.

Referendums do not affect the value of Competition variable. They affect only the Participation variable and through it the Index of Democratization, but the effect of referendums (Participation) on the Index of Democratization depends crucially on the degree of Competition. If Competition is in zero, the Index of Democratization cannot rise from zero, although the value of Participation variable were high. In other words, the higher the value of Competition, the more the same number of referendums increases the value of ID.

This index of democracy is simpler than any of the alternative measures of democracy (cf. Munck and Verkuilen 2002; Munck 2009). It differs from other measures in two important ways: (1) it uses only two indicators, and (2) both of them are based, in principle, on quantitative data. Most other measures of democracy include more indicators, and most are based on more or less qualitative data. I think that it is scientifically more justified to use simple quantitative indicators than more complicated indicators loaded with weights and estimates based on subjective judgements if those simple quantitative indicators are as valid measures of the phenomeon as the more complicated and less quantitative indicators. However, some subjective judgments are needed also in the use of my measures of democracy, but it is possible for other researchers to see from the dataset what those subjective interpretations have been. One advantage of this Index of Democratization is that empirical data on the two basic variables are available from different sources, that statistical data on elections are in most cases exact and reliable, and that the role of subjective judgements in the use of electoral data is relatively limited. Further, I would like to emphasize that because the two basic variables do not take into account all important aspects of democracy, they are better adapted to indicate significant differences between political systems from the perspective of democracy than more detailed differences among democracies or nondemocracies (cf. Vanhanen 2000a, 2000b; 2003).

Standard descriptive variables (generated by this package)


The name of the country in the Gleditsch-Ward system of states, or the official name of the entity (for non-sovereign entities and states not in the Gleditsch and Ward system of states) or else a common name for disputed cases that do not have an official name (e.g., Western Sahara, Hyderabad). The Gleditsch and Ward scheme sometimes indicates the common name of the country and (in parentheses) the name of an earlier incarnation of the state: thus, they have Germany (Prussia), Russia (Soviet Union), Madagascar (Malagasy), etc. For details, see Gleditsch, Kristian S. & Michael D. Ward. 1999. "Interstate System Membership: A Revised List of the Independent States since 1816." International Interactions 25: 393-413. The list can be found at http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~ksg/statelist.html.


Gleditsch and Ward's numeric country code, from the Gleditsch and Ward list of independent states.


The Correlates of War numeric country code, 2016 version. This differs from Gleditsch and Ward's numeric country code in a few cases. See http://www.correlatesofwar.org/data-sets/state-system-membership for the full list.


Whether the state is "in system" (that is, is independent and sovereign), according to Gleditsch and Ward, for this particular date. Matches at the end of the year; so, for example South Vietnam 1975 is FALSE because, according to Gleditsch and Ward, the country ended on April 1975 (being absorbed by North Vietnam). It is also TRUE for dates beyond 2012 for countries that did not end by then, depsite the fact that the Gleditsch and Ward list has not been updated since.


The vanhanen_pmm version of this data is taken from from Pemstein, Daniel, Stephen A. Meserve, and James Melton. 2013. "Replication data for: Democratic Compromise: A Latent Variable Analysis of Ten Measures of Regime Type." In: Harvard Dataverse. http://hdl.handle.net/1902.1/PMM. The original dataset is found in vanhanen. The vanhanen_pmm data only goes back to 1945. There are some missing values in PMM's data compared to the original Vanhanen dataset. For more detail on the differences, see the vignette. The vanhanen_pmm data is included here for completeness.