These are the best democracies in the world -- and the US barely makes the list

Less than 5% of the world’s population lives in a “full democracy,” according to a new report ranking countries by how functional their political systems are.

The Economist Intelligence Unit released on Wednesday its 2017 Democracy Index, which ranks 167 countries on a 0 to 10 scale. Only countries with scores above 8 are categorised as “full” democracies.

The US was downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in the same study last year, which cited the “low esteem in which US voters hold their government, elected representatives, and political parties.”

The study has five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair (“electoral process and pluralism”), governments have checks and balances (“functioning of government”), and whether citizens are included in politics (“political participation”), support their government (“political culture”), and enjoy freedom of expression (“civil liberties”).

Scroll down to see the world’s best democracies.


1. Norway — 9.87/10

franganillo/FlickrOslo, Norway.

Electoral process and pluralism: 10.00

Functioning of government: 9.64

Political participation: 10.00

Political culture: 10.00

Civil liberties: 9.71


2. Iceland — 9.58

Getty Images/Spencer PlattReykjavik, Iceland.

Electoral process and pluralism: 10.00

Functioning of government: 9.29

Political participation: 8.89

Political culture: 10.00

Civil liberties: 9.71


3. Sweden — 9.39

tarquingemstone/FlickrStockholm, Sweden.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 9.64

Political participation: 8.33

Political culture: 10.00

Civil liberties: 9.41


4. New Zealand — 9.26

ShutterstockThe New Zealand countryside.

Electoral process and pluralism: 10.00

Functioning of government: 9.29

Political participation: 8.89

Political culture: 8.13

Civil liberties: 10.00


5. Denmark — 9.22

Ppictures / ShutterstockCopenhagen, Denmark

Electoral process and pluralism: 10.00

Functioning of government: 9.29

Political participation: 8.33

Political culture: 9.38

Civil liberties: 9.12


=6. Republic of Ireland — 9.15

Claudio Divizia/ShutterstockDublin, Republic of Ireland.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 7.86

Political participation: 8.33

Political culture: 10.00

Civil liberties: 10.00


=6. Canada — 9.15

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 9.64

Political participation: 7.78

Political culture: 8.75

Civil liberties: 10.00


8. Australia — 9.09

Getty ImagesThe Sydney Opera House, Australia.

Electoral process and pluralism: 10.00

Functioning of government: 8.93

Political participation: 7.78

Political culture: 8.75

Civil liberties: 10.00


=9. Finland — 9.03

Oleksiy Mark/ShutterstockHelsinki, Finland.

Electoral process and pluralism: 10.00

Functioning of government: 8.93

Political participation: 7.78

Political culture: 8.75

Civil liberties: 9.71


=9. Switzerland — 9.03

Wikimedia CommonsBern, Switzerland.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 9.29

Political participation: 7.78

Political culture: 9.38

Civil liberties: 9.12


11. The Netherlands — 8.89

ShutterstockAmsterdam, the Netherlands.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 9.29

Political participation: 8.33

Political culture: 8.13

Civil liberties: 9.12


12. Luxembourg — 8.81

Flickr/Wolfgang StaudtLuxembourg City, Luxembourg.

Electoral process and pluralism: 10.00

Functioning of government: 8.93

Political participation: 6.67

Political culture: 8.75

Civil liberties: 9.71


13. Germany — 8.61

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 8.21

Political participation: 8.33

Political culture: 7.50

Civil liberties: 9.41


14. United Kingdom — 8.53

ShutterstockWestminster, London.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 7.50

Political participation: 8.33

Political culture: 8.13

Civil liberties: 9.12


15. Austria — 8.42

Alexander Koerner/GettyVienna, Austria.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 8.21

Political participation: 8.33

Political culture: 6.88

Civil liberties: 9.12


16. Mauritius — 8.22

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.17

Functioning of government: 8.21

Political participation: 5.56

Political culture: 8.75

Civil liberties: 9.41


17. Malta — 8.15

Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesValletta, Malta.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.17

Functioning of government: 8.21

Political participation: 6.11

Political culture: 8.75

Civil liberties: 8.53


18. Uruguay — 8.12

Flickr/Jimmy BaikoviciusMontevideo, Uruguay.

Electoral process and pluralism: 10.00

Functioning of government: 8.93

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 7.50

Civil liberties: 9.71


19. Spain — 8.08

Shutterstock/LucViMadrid, Spain.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.17

Functioning of government: 7.14

Political participation: 7.78

Political culture: 7.50

Civil liberties: 8.82


20. South Korea — 8.00

Flickr via mariospSeoul, South Korea.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.17

Functioning of government: 7.86

Political participation: 7.22

Political culture: 7.50

Civil liberties: 8.24

This is the last “full democracy” on the list.


=21. USA — 7.98

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.17

Functioning of government: 7.14

Political participation: 7.22

Political culture: 8.13

Civil liberties: 8.24


=21. Italy — 7.98

ShutterstockRome, Italy.

Electoral process and pluralism: 9.58

Functioning of government: 6.43

Political participation: 7.22

Political culture: 8.13

Civil liberties: 8.53

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