October 30, 2017

How countries around the world view democracy, military rule and other political systems

A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring found reasons for optimism as well as concern about the future of democracy around the world. In every nation polled, more than half said representative democracy is a very or somewhat good way to run their country. But the survey also found openness, to varying degrees, to some nondemocratic forms of government.

Use our interactive feature below to compare views of political systems in each nation surveyed. It’s followed by six findings the Center found especially striking.

 

Explore global opinions on political systems by country

 

Here are six key findings:

1About nine-in-ten Swedes (92%) say representative democracy is a good way of governing their country, the highest share of any country in the survey. A majority of Swedes (57%) also say direct democracy – in which citizens, not elected officials, vote directly on major issues – is a good way to govern. People in Sweden are among the most likely of any in the survey to say they are satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country: About eight-in-ten Swedes (79%) hold this view, the same share as in India and Tanzania.

2Germans are overwhelmingly opposed to rule by the military or by a strong leader. More than nine-in-ten are opposed to military rule (95%) or rule by a strong leader who can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts (93%). Even among those on the ideological right and those with less education – two groups who tend to voice more support for military or autocratic rule in other countries – there is little backing for these two forms of government in Germany. Just 13% of Germans on the ideological right say a political system with an unchecked leader is a good way to govern, and just 4% of those with less education see military rule as a good form of government.

3People in Vietnam are the most likely to support military rule among the countries surveyed. Seven-in-ten Vietnamese say rule by the military would be a good way to govern. But a larger majority (87%) of Vietnamese people express support for representative democracy, while another big majority (73%) supports direct democracy and 67% back a system in which experts, not elected officials, make decisions according to what they think is best for the country. Of the five different forms of governance tested by the survey, only one – rule by a strong leader without judicial or parliamentary interference – draws more opposition (47%) than support (42%) in Vietnam.

4Support for a strong leader who is unchecked by the judiciary or parliament is highest in India. While 55% of people in India view rule by a strong leader as a good way to govern, this form of governance remains less popular than direct democracy (viewed favorably by 76% of respondents), representative democracy (75%) and rule by experts (65%).

5Just 6% of people in Mexico are satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country, the smallest share of any country surveyed. That compares with a median of 46% among all countries surveyed. Roughly nine-in-ten Mexicans (93%) say they are not satisfied with the way their democracy is working.

Despite their pessimism about democracy in practice, majorities of Mexicans still view direct democracy and representative democracy as good ways to govern (62% and 58%, respectively). About half (53%) say the same about rule by experts, while most Mexicans (67%) have a negative view of rule by a strong leader. When it comes to military rule, more Mexicans oppose than support the idea (52% versus 42%).

6Trust in the national government is highest in Tanzania. About nine-in-ten people in Tanzania (89%) trust their government to do what is right for their country, including 48% who say they have “a lot” of trust. Globally, a median of just 14% express “a lot” of trust in their national government to do what is right. And in 10 countries – Chile, Spain, Peru, France, Brazil, Lebanon, Mexico, South Korea, Greece and Italy – 5% or less of respondents express this level of confidence in their national government.

Topics: Democracy, Political Attitudes and Values, Trust in Government, International Governments and Institutions

  1. Photo of John Gramlich

    is a writer/editor at Pew Research Center.