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Freedom in the World

Producer: 

Freedom House

Stated Purpose: 

The survey is designed to measure progress in developing political freedoms and democracy.

Area of Governance: 
Democracy
Human Rights
Funding Source: 

Principal sources of funding are US foundations and government agencies.

Current usage: 

The index is widely used by news agencies and research bodies. In addition the US Government has considered using the measure in aid allocations processes, particularly for the Millennium Challenge Account.

Type of data used: 

Expert coding conducted by in-house analysts as well as outside consultant analysts. The analysts uses a broad range of sources of information, including foreign and domestic news reports, academic analyses, non-governmental organisations, think tanks, individual professional contacts, and visits to the regions, in preparing the reports.

Coverage: 

Country Coverage: 195 countries and 14 related and disputed territories.
Year Coverage: 1972 -  to present, updated annually.

Contact details: 

Washington D.C. Office
1319 18th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel: +1 202-296-5101 Fax: +1 202-296-5078

Methodology: 

Experts allocate a country rating based upon responses to a series of questions. Those experts are not generally based in the country rated, rather they will be involved in rating several countries. The overall rating is made up from two separate indices of political and civil rights.

The full list of questions asked of each expert is available at the Freedom House webpage. The methodology requires countries to be rated by experts and these scores are transformed into a Political Freedoms and Civil Liberties index. The scores for the 2 indices are then averaged to show an overall freedom rating for the country. Each question is rated with 0 to 4 points with 0 representing the closest to the ideal situation and 4 representing the furthest from it. The impact of the double transformation of ratings is to push countries slightly closer to ‘not free’ than would otherwise be the case, although this affects only those at the lower ends of the ranges for each type of freedom.

Format of results: 

The scores for the Political Rights, Civil Liberties and combined freedom index run from 1 to 7, with 1 being most free and 7 being least free. Using the average of the political rights and civil liberties indices, countries are considered ‘free’ if they score 1-2.5, ‘partly free’ with 3-5.5 and ‘not free’ with 5.5-7.

Valid Use: 

The index simplifies a complex subject into an easily understood rating.

Invalid Use: 

Several studies have shown the index to have an ideological bias against communist or former communist states. The methodology’s reliance on external assessments means it should not be used as a reflection of the views of citizens within the country. The scoring system precludes the indices‘ use as an index of the de facto or de jure enjoyment of rights.

Assumption: 

The scoring system takes rights as being additive, with the overall effect that a low score in one rights aspect can be offset by a high score in another. This is contrary to the principles in international human rights norms.

In addition there are more questions concerning civil liberties than political rights. During the transformation each is given equal weighting, the net impact being that one mark away from the ideal standard on political rights pushes countries further towards ’not free‘ than one mark away from the ideal on civil liberties. The overall impact is 50% greater for each mark on political rights than civil liberties.

This occurs because there are 10 basic questions (up to 40 marks) for the political rights and 15 basic questions (up to 60 marks) for civil liberties. In the overall rating, the political rights score equates to half the total mark and the civil rights to the other half.

Example results: 

The table below shows the "Number of People Living at Each Freedom Rating" in 2012