Democratic Erosion

a cross-university collaboration

Project Summary

In collaboration with the cross-university course on Democratic Erosion, a team of Master’s students from the Bush School of Government & Public Service Master of International Affairs led by Dr. Jessica Gottlieb produced the first version of a dataset on the precursors and symptoms of, and resistance to, democratic backsliding. This was done as a capstone project for the client, United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG). Because democratic backsliding, or the incremental erosion of democratic institutions, is a relatively new phenomenon (Bermeo 2016), there is limited systematic empirical data on the phenomenon itself, relative to, say, regime transitions. While there is quite a lot of recent theoretical work on democratic backsliding (see Lust and Waldner 2015), there remains a gap in the evidence base that would allow researchers and practitioners to observe spatial and temporal trends in democratic backsliding and test predictions about when and how it manifests.

The dataset was created to be a practical tool for addressing democratic erosion around the world. To that end, the team created a tool — a Microsoft Excel dashboard — that allows users to explore the data and see only the information that is relevant to their area of interest. The full dataset can be accessed here, along with the coding methodology and case selection criteria.

Here are some ways you can use the data (some sample analyses are reported here and in the capstone report):

  1. Do you want to know whether democratic erosion looks different in Africa than it does in Europe? Look for trends in the data with simple descriptive statistics.
  2. Do you want to know which risk factors are most likely to lead to actual democratic erosion? You can implement predictive analyses by evaluating cause and effect over time.
  3. Do you want to know whether democratic erosion is more likely in weak democracies or places with high levels of inequality? The data can be easily merged with other country-level or country-year datasets to analyze how erosion events are related to other contextual features.


  • Interactive map and data explorer
  • Short reports on key issues and countries generated with the event data
  • New versions of the data
    • We will continue to add countries and years through continued collaboration with the cross-university course
    • As we increase the evidence base for each country, we will add reliability statistics

General inquiries may be directed to the Dataset Coordinator, Dr. Jessica Gottlieb, at

The Democratic Erosion Event Dataset raw data and/or the data dashboard may be cited as follows:

Gottlieb, Jessica, Rob A. Blair, Aries Arugay, Cameron Ballard-Rosa, Hannah Baron, Guy Grossman, Shelby Grossman, Jennifer McCoy, Amanda Robinson, Steven Rosenzweig, Cathy Lisa Schneider, and Megan Turnbull.  2018.  “Democratic Erosion Event Dataset v.2.” Democratic Erosion Project: A Cross-University Collaboration.