Varieties of Democracy Project engages policy audience

Author: Elizabeth Rankin


At a May 30 event in Washington, D.C., University of Notre Dame Kellogg Institute Faculty Fellow Michael Coppedge and collaborator Staffan I. Lindberg of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, demonstrated how their new democracy data set will make new kinds of democracy research and policy assessment possible for the first time.

More than 80 people from a range of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations and foundations attended the event, which was held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace center.

Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) is an international collaboration producing new fine-grained indicators of hundreds of aspects of democracy for all countries and colonies from 1900 to the present. Coppedge, Lindberg and former Kellogg Visiting Fellow John Gerring of Boston University are the project’s principal investigators.

“This event showed us clearly that the Varieties of Democracy project promises to make an enormous impact on our study and understanding of democracy for the next generation of scholars and practitioners alike. We are proud that the Kellogg Institute is one of its institutional homes,” said Kellogg Executive Director Paolo Carozza.

Massimo Tommasoli, permanent observer for International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance to the United Nations, provided commentary, and Richard Youngs, transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, served as moderator.

“The most exciting part of the presentation was revealing the new data we have made public for 24 countries and the new online interactive graphs that anyone can generate,” said Coppedge.

“The graphs quickly made it clear that V-Dem data contain much more detailed information about what is going on than other existing indicators. We showed that when the level of democracy changes overall, it is not necessarily a simple process — often some aspects get better, some stay the same and some get worse.

“Understanding the nature of regime change necessitates looking at all of these processes in detail. V-Dem data make it possible to do that.”

The Kellogg Institute for International Studies serves as the institutional home for Varieties of Democracy in the United States, and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden serves that function in Europe.