Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

What Can Improve Democracy?

Appendix C: Codebook

Below are the instructions given to researchers who coded the responses to the open-ended question. Keywords listed with each code represent examples indicating how a unit of information could be coded and are not a complete list of all concepts per code.

We asked respondents in 24 countries what they think would help improve the way democracy is working in their country. In their responses, people mention a variety of reforms, cultural changes and personal actions. Through this coding process, we are categorizing responses based on the types of changes mentioned.

First, determine if the response answers the question. If the response only references not having or knowing an answer (e.g., “I don’t know” or “I don’t want to answer”), select Don’t know/refused and move on to the next response. Likewise, if the response is unintelligible, select Don’t know/refused and move on to the next response.

For all other responses, continue through the rest of the codebook. Responses are composed of units of information – words, short phrases or statements that tell you something – and a response may contain multiple units that each belong to a separate category. Please break each response into discrete units to code one at a time. If the response contains reasoning or explanation for one distinct thought, code the singular thought.

If the unit of information is substantive but does not easily fit into any of the substantive code options, please consider the scope and/or subject of the unit. Consider the following guidelines:

  1. If the unit addresses a large-scale, system-level issue, choose Government reform.
  2. If the unit addresses individuals in political leadership, choose Politicians.
  3. If the unit uses “we” or addresses individuals who are not in political leadership, choose Citizen quality.
  4. Only if the subject of the unit and the intent of the answer is unclear should Other be selected.

If you are unsure how to categorize a particular unit, please provide an English translation of the response and/or add a comment.

No changes, Other, and Don’t know/refused are terminal codes, meaning they should never be selected with another code. If a respondent says, for example, “Don’t know, but also …” code the substantive response that follows.

Government reform

  • Distribution of power
    Keywords: Checks and balances, separation of branches, less powerful executive, giving more (not all) power to a monarchy, regional balance of power, stop favoring certain provinces, becoming a federal nation, statehood for __, local government, eliminate autonomous communities or more power to autonomous communities, deep state, adding or eliminating levels of government
  • Term limits for elected officials
    Keywords: Limits on [president, prime minister, legislators, mayors], retirement age for politicians
  • Parties
    Keywords: More/fewer parties, bigger/smaller parties, bipartisanship, party compromise, parties need to work together, voting for a specific party, preference for a political party, polarization, party responsiveness, party lines, ideological lines, anti-defection law
  • Non-democratic alternative
    Keywords: Military junta, technocracy, authoritarianism, no government, anarchy, race-based system, religion-based system, return to apartheid system

Special interests

Keywords: No/less lobbying, special interest groups, political action committees, rent seekers, pork barrel, conflicts of interest, politicians’ second jobs, politicians’ investing, wages for politicians, pensions for politicians, money in politics, “Citizens United,” politician spending/expenses, campaign finance, meritocracy, nepotism

  • Corruption
    Keywords: Corruption, bribery, exploiting resources, coercion

Electoral reform

Keywords: More frequent elections, change voting rules, proportional representation, two-round elections, ranked-choice voting, first-past-the-post, mandatory voting, free and fair elections, respect election results, accept election results, cede elections, Electoral College, change length of campaigns, change method of campaigning, how leaders are chosen, how candidates are chosen, voting rights, gerrymandering, representative democracy, “one person, one vote,” D’hont method

  • Direct democracy
    Keywords: Referenda, ballot initiatives, public makes decisions

Media reform

Keywords: Better media, less media, misinformation, disinformation, media regulation, social media, freedom of the press, censorship, polarization of social media, print media, truth in media, political ads, social media companies, Facebook, repeal the gag law

Economic reform

Keywords: Capitalism, reduced wealth inequality, economic mobility, higher standard of living, pension reform, union reform, unionize, economic policies, companies/factories (including building more), feed the poor, wealth redistribution, sharing wealth, taxes/taxation, use money wisely, welfare, Social Security, livable wages, currency, digital currency, adopt the euro, ration cards, development, inflation, entrepreneurs, supporting small business owners, prices

  • Jobs
    Keywords: More/better jobs, jobs for the youth, employment

Individual rights and equality

Keywords: Freedom of speech, Bill of Rights, too much freedom, human rights, give rights to minority groups, social equality, gender equality, right to believe in something, social inequity, give people an equal chance, all people benefit, repeal the nationalism law, combat racism, repeal racist laws, enact laws against racism, social justice, eradicate casteism, land rights


Keywords: Peace, personal safety, less violence, less general crime, reduce crime, police, law enforcement, support and respect for law enforcement

Rule of law

Keywords: Leaders/citizens should follow the law, follow the Constitution, rule of law, no one is above the law, prosecute politicians for given reason, accountability, hold politicians accountable, everyone is equal under the law, fair/equal application of laws, fix two-tier system of justice, prosecution, criminals should not stand for election or run for office, stricter laws, penalties for crimes, general mentions of justice, justice department or ministry enforcing laws

  • Judicial system
    Keywords: Term limits for judges, better judges, more/fewer judges, judicial activism, judicial oversight, removal of judges, removal of prosecutors, High Court reform, strengthen the judicial system, change attorney general position


Keywords: Better-educated leaders, honest leaders, truthful leaders, subject experts, stop yelling at one another, be kind, be mature, improved quality, better politicians, politician quality, leaders should be more/less religious, identity politics, more women, more young people, greater diversity in government, different demographic groups in politicians, more/fewer liberals, cultural representation, do your job, politicians should work together, debates between politicians, job performance, prepared politicians

  • Responsiveness
    Keywords: Listen to the people, in touch with society, understand the people, follow elected mandate, listen to public opinion, polling, give the people a voice, follow through with promises, government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” put the people first, see the struggles of a certain group, feel like your vote matters, majority rule, respect the people, communicate with the people, take the people seriously, engage with the people, be closer with the people
  • Change leadership
    Keywords: Get rid of [current leaders/governing parties], recalls, impeachment, change in government leadership, change ruling party, remove from government/office, get someone __ in the government, do away with __, clean house

Citizen quality

Keywords: Kindness, people understanding each other, people listening to each other, empathy, respect, more educated citizens, love, unity, civility, everyone working together, tribalism, more/less religious public, strong families, informed citizens, assimilation, communalism, patriotism, having your own opinion, openness, tolerance, preserving traditions           

Citizen participation

Keywords: Use your vote, make your voice heard, communicate with politicians, engagement with politics, citizen assemblies, participate in democracy, interest in politics, power to the people, demonstrating, protesting

Policies and legislation

Keywords: Climate policy, limit/increase immigration, health care, better schools, education, infrastructure, work with other countries/multilateral organizations, follow model of other countries, foreign policy, resources, oil, gas, homelessness, affordable housing, social policy, social amenities, scope of legislation, end of subsidies, develop technology, roads, infrastructure, electricity, flooding, hospitals, public health, military, water, agricultural policy, scientific research/discovery, phones, internet, family planning, pollution, boost tourism, limit the number of pages in legislation, change or limit content of laws, size and scope of laws, government scheme

No changes [TERMINAL CODE]

Keywords: Democracy is unfixable, democracy doesn’t work, we shouldn’t have a democracy, it’s ruined, failed experiment, best system of government, no issues, it works, nothing, the best of the bad options, not at all, it is what it is, preserve democracy, preserve the status quo


Not a substantive answer to the question. Includes general complaints about democracy that offer no opinion about changing democracy. For example: “Democracy is weak.”

Don’t know/refused [TERMINAL CODE]

Keywords: No, don’t know, N/A, I’m not sure

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