Data Set Description for Chapter 1: The V-Dem Dataset

Data Exercise Contributor: Jens Wäckerle


The V-Dem dataset is released by the V-Dem Institute, an independent research institute located at the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The institute was founded in 2014 by Staffan Lindberg and now over 50 scientists across the world are involved in the collection of data on democratic performance. More than 3000 country experts provide codings for the dataset, both in present countries and historically going back to 1789. The institute also publishes a range of reports on the situation of democracy and developments in single countries. The dataset can be accessed here. We will present the dataset below. While reading, please keep in mind the questions below and answer them once you reached the end. In the final panel, we will provide a link to a platform with an interactive version of the dataset and additional tasks.

Table 1: General Tasks for the Dataset
What conception of democracy, maximalist or minimalist, do the various V-Dem indices measure?
What are the events in the 20th century that produce the greatest shifts in democracy for European countries?
What is the conceptual difference between the indicators? Provide two examples in which a country performed considerably different on some indicator than on others and provide an explanation.

Dataset Description

Overall Information

Table 2 shows a part of the V-Dem dataset with some of the countries in the year 2019. The dataset provides a general name for the country that is used for the complete historical record (country_name). Countries are included in the dataset if they are “a political unit enjoying at least some degree of functional and/or formal sovereignty.” Additionally, the variable “histname” shows the official name of the country at the time of survey, here 2019. The variable “codingstart_contemp” denotes from which year data is available for the country. This might either be because the country is recognized as a political unit as described above from that year on, or because data collection for the V-Dem project goes back that far. The earliest year here is 1900, as that is the year the modern V-Dem project goes back to. Additionally, there is a historical V-Dem project, that goes back to the 18th century, as indicated in the variable “codingstart_hist”. We will here focus on the contemporary dataset.

Table 2: General Information in the CHES dataset
country_name histname codingstart_contemp codingstart_hist
Switzerland Swiss Confederation 1900 1798
Germany Federal Republic of Germany 1900 1789
United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1900 1789
Czech Republic Czech Republic 1918 NA
Denmark Kingdom of Denmark 1900 1789
Malta Republic of Malta [independent state] 1900 NA
Slovakia Slovak Republic [independent state] 1939 NA

Main indices

Electoral democracy index

The electoral democracy index focuses on electoral aspects of democracy, in other words a procedural conceptualization of democracy. It is the basis for the following main indices (in the sense as they all combine the elecotral democracy index with other variables). The index is made up of variables on freedom of association, clean elections, freedom of expression, elected officials and suffrage.

Figure 1: Electoral democracy index

Figure 1: Electoral democracy index

Liberal democracy index

The liberal democracy index combines the electoral index described above with measures of the liberal principle of democracy, focusing on the limits placed on the government. Its components include equality before the law and individual liberties as well as legislative and judicial constraints on the executive.

Figure 2: Liberal democracy index

Figure 2: Liberal democracy index

Participatory democracy index

The participatory democracy index combines the electoral index described above with measures of active participation of citizens in political processes. Its components include civil society participation, direct popular votea as well as elected local and regional government power.