Written by Djoomart Otorbaev
Former Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic
On May 5, the meeting of foreign ministers of the G7 countries has ended. Its participants emphasized their role in protecting democratic values and their determination to resist autocratic regimes worldwide. On the same day, the highly respected Alliance of Democracies Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting democracy worldwide, published its annual report. The organization has been founded by a former Danish Prime Minister and former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
It is important to compare how this global survey in which 50,000 respondents from 53 countries took part in assessing the level of democracy. The data collected provides insight into how people around the world feel about their governments and foreign powers.
The inhabitants of our planet want to live in democratic societies and influence the policies pursued by their states. The survey results showed a generally high level of adherence to democratic values. 81 percent of respondents worldwide said it was vital for them to have a democracy in their country. But only 53 percent claimed their country was already a democracy.
The respondents in Norway, Switzerland, and Sweden were the most convinced, with votes from 71 to 77 percent, that their countries are democratic. Similar numbers were expressed in China and Vietnam, where respondents said that their countries are democratic. However, the situation in Russia was different. Only 33 percent of respondents consider their country to be democratic. The results of this poll were quite unpleasant discoveries for a few Eastern European countries as well. For example, 65 percent of people in Poland and 63 percent of people in Hungary believe that their countries lack democracy. A similar percentage of those polled called their countries democracies in Nigeria, Iran, and Venezuela.
One of the most shocking poll results was that despite vociferous national rhetoric to defend democratic principles worldwide, the people said that the U.S. is not the primary defender but the greatest threat to democracy. A startling discovery was that 44 percent of respondents feared that the U.S. posed a threat to democracy in their countries. Another equally shocking fact was that only 50 percent of Americans believe they live in a democratic country.
Meanwhile, only 38 percent of those surveyed reported a threat to democracy in their countries from China, and only 28 percent admitted the existence of such a threat from Russia.
Understandably, the list of countries whose citizens mostly have a negative attitude to the influence of the U.S. includes residents of Russia and China. However, in their negative attitude towards the U.S., the European Union countries are not far behind them.
Perhaps America needs to spend less energy to export its "imperfect" democracy abroad but try to restore order with the democracy at home.
The poll showed that the biggest threat to democracy is not foreign interference in elections, the influence of China or Russia, or the power of big technology. Still, it is economic inequality in their own countries. This factor was named by 64 percent of the respondents. One of the most significant potential threats to democracy (48 percent) became the negative influence of large tech companies. Surprisingly, the impact of tech giants on democracy is of greatest concern to the population of the U.S. (62 percent), where these giants are located.
Compared to last year, more people were concerned that social media platforms are negatively affecting democracy. The U.S. stands out as a country with the world's most negative view of the impact of social media on democracy. Among Americans, 47 percent expressed negatively about them, and only 41 percent were positive. There is a similar negative attitude towards social networks in Hungary, Austria, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. It is a clear sign that there is public support for the introduction of stricter regulation of social networks in those countries.
People around the world differ sharply about how well their country is responding to the coronavirus crisis. In all 53 countries of those surveyed, an average of 58 percent says their country responds well, ranging from 93 percent in China and 96 percent in Vietnam to 19 percent in Brazil and 27 percent in France, and 28 percent in Italy.
Overall, the average level of satisfaction in Asia (75 percent) was significantly higher than in Europe (45 percent) and Latin America (42 percent). People in Western countries are becoming increasingly unhappy with their government's response to the pandemic. Here, satisfaction fell from 70 percent in the spring of 2020 to 51 percent a year later.
Assessing the results of the survey, the founder of the Alliance for Democracy Foundation Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: "This poll shows that democracy is still alive in people's hearts and minds. We now need to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic by delivering more democracy and freedom to people who want to see their countries become more democratic."
However, intentionally or not, he did not specify which countries should make more extensive efforts to become more democratic?