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The quality of democracy in 2015

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Alex Tusell Collado. Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from the Universitat Autònoma de Catalonia and Master in Political Analysis from the Open University of Catalonia

In recent years, the concept of the quality of democracy has gained popularity in academia. Moreover, this concept has likewise appeared on the public agenda in the discussion of democratic regeneration, following cases of corruption and the growing political disaffection of citizens towards politics. Even some political parties include different proposals for improving the quality of democracy in their electoral programmes.

Most studies conclude that the Nordic countries are enjoying a better democracy, followed by Western Europe and the Anglo-Saxons. On the other hand, the South American, African and Asian states are those with a worse quality of democracy.

All the indices relating to the quality of democracy position Spain among the countries that have a good democracy, although the Spanish democracy could be improved, given that it is not among the top ten countries in any index. For example, The Democracy Barometer is an index of the quality of democracy that has data since the year 1990 until 2012. In this ranking in 2012, Spain ranks 20th out of the 38 countries studied, and the year 2013, Spain is the thirtieth country out of the 49 states that comprise the index. The score on the quality of democracy that Spain gets between 1990 and 2012 is quite stable, the year 1998 being the best. Nevertheless, there a drop in the score is the year 2012, being the worst year recorded since 1990.

Social capital one of the factors that most influence the quality

Because of this, we have to ask the reason why, among democracies, there are countries with a better quality of democracy and countries with a poorer quality of democracy. Ultimately, the answer to this question should serve to improve the quality of democracy.

For many academics, one of the factors influencing the quality of democracy is social capital. An active civil society is one that is well informed and debates on collective issues and actively participate in public affairs, influences positively the quality of democracy. An indicator to study social capital is interpersonal trust. Looking at the evolution of this indicator over the years, we see that has a very stable behaviour in Spain. In the survey, World Values Survey, interpersonal trust levels in Spain have hardly changed during the years 2009 through 2014. The same trend was recorded in the European Social Survey, between 2006 and 2012. Although there is still no data on 2015 available, the trend indicates that there will be no substantive changes in interpersonal trust. Therefore, during the year 2015, is not expected that there will be significant changes in the capital. Another factor affecting the quality of democracy is the democratic experience of a country. The idea is that it is more probable that democracy will endure if the country enjoys a long democratic tradition. In fact, countries have a democratic learning process that increases with time. In this sense, the more continuous years of democracy Spain accumulates, the better will its democratic quality be.

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