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The latest Democracy Perception Index reveals shifts in global perceptions

May 21, 2024 at 4:30 pm

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The Democracy Perception Index (DPI) issued its 2024 report on 8 May, revealing important and interesting shifts in global perceptions about democracy, geopolitics and international relations. The conclusions in the report were based on the views of over 62,000 respondents from 53 countries, representing roughly 75 per cent of the world’s total population.

The survey was conducted between 20 February and 15 April this year, when the world was largely transfixed by the Israeli war against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

It is important to note that the DPI, although informative, is itself conceived in a biased context as it is the product of a global survey conducted by western-based companies and organisations.

The DPI results were published ahead of a scheduled 2024 Copenhagen Democracy Summit, whose speakers included Hillary Clinton, US Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and President of the European Council Charles Michel. The first speaker listed on the conference website is Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Founder and Chairman of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, which commissioned the DPI.

All of this is reflected in the kind of questions which are being asked in the survey, placing greater emphasis on whether, for example, ties should be cut with Russia over Ukraine, and China over a war that is yet to take place in Taiwan. Such major shortcomings notwithstanding, the outcome of the research remains interesting and worthy of reflection.

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There are some major takeaways from the report. For a start, there is growing dissatisfaction with the state of democracy, and such discontent is not limited to people living in countries perceived as non-democratic; it also includes people in the US and Europe.

What’s more, democracy, in the collective awareness of ordinary people, is not a political term often infused as part of official propaganda. When seen from the viewpoint of the people, democracy is a practical notion, whose absence leads to dire implications. For example, 68 per cent of people worldwide believe that economic inequality at home is the greatest threat to democracy.

On the question of “threats to democracy”, there is growing mistrust of Global Corporations (60 per cent), Big Tech (49 per cent) and their resulting Economic Inequality (68 per cent), and Corruption (67 per cent). This leads to the unmistakable conclusion that western globalisation has failed to create the proper environment for social equality, empower civil society or build democratic institutions. The opposite, based on people’s own perceptions, seems to be true.

Then we have global priorities which, as seen by many nations around the world, remain committed to ending wars, poverty, hunger, combating climate change, etc. However, this year’s top priority among European countries, 44 per cent, is also centred on reducing immigration, a significant number compared with the 24 per cent who prioritise fighting climate change.

Although the world appears to be divided about cutting ties with Russia and China, the selection of the question again reeks with bias.

The respondents in western countries, who are subjected to relentless media propaganda, prefer cutting such ties, while most people in the rest of the world prefer keeping them. Consequently, due to China’s positive perception in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, the DPI gave Beijing a “net positive”. Russia, on the other hand, is on the “path of image rehabilitation in most countries surveyed with the exception of Europe,” reported Politico.

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The greatest decline was suffered by the United States, largely due to Washington’s support for Israel in its ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. “Over the past four years… perceptions of the US’s global influence became more positive – peaking in 2022 or 2023 – and then declined sharply in 2024,” the report concluded.

The large drop took place in the Muslim countries that were surveyed: Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkiye, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria. Some western European countries are also becoming more critical of the US, including Switzerland, Ireland and Germany.

Most people (55 per cent compared with 29 per cent) believe that social media has a positive effect on democracy. Despite growing social media censorship, many in the Global South still find margins in these platforms which allow them to escape official or corporate media censorship. Growing criticism of social media companies, however, is taking place in western countries, according to the survey.

Despite official propaganda emanating from many governments, especially in the west, regarding the greatest threats to world peace, the majority of people want their governments to focus on poverty reduction, fight corruption, promote economic growth, and improve healthcare and education, while working to reduce income inequality. “Investing in security and defence,” came seventh on the list.

Finally, people in countries which have an overall negative perception of the United States include some of the most influential global and regional powers, such as China, Russia, Indonesia, Austria, Turkiye, Australia and Belgium.

Despite massive media propaganda, censorship and scaremongering, people around the world remain clear on their collective priorities, expectations and aspirations, which are real democracy, social equality and justice. If these collective yearnings continue to be denigrated and ignored, we should expect more social upheaval, if not outright insurrections and military coups in coming years.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.