Recent events such as the election of Donald Trump as president and the rise of right-wing extremists in Europe have led to gloomy commentary about the state of democracy. For example, people have argued that liberal democracies are at risk of decline, that support for democracy is being eroded by the conflict between values and expertise, and that democratic backsliding has already occurred in a number of countries.
Is this pessimism warranted? Not quite. Although the average level of democracy in the world has declined to where it was 10 to 15 years ago, the decline is moderate. The world remains more democratic today than it was before the end of the Cold War. A nuanced look at the data suggests that the declines are limited to certain countries and even to certain domains within those countries.
There are still reasons to be worried, though: The quality of democracy has declined in more countries than it has improved in over the past five years.