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The Democracy Perceptions Index is an annual study on the attitudes towards democracy conducted by the Latana research institute and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation. It covers 53 countries representing over 75% of the global population. As we read in the report published last Wednesday, this year’s study has found that while 86% of Poles believe that democracy is important, only 31% think that their country is actually democratic.

According to the survey, an overwhelming majority of Danes (77%), Swedes (75%), and Norwegians (71%) declare satisfaction with the state of democracy in their respective countries. On the other end of the spectrum are Venezuelans (25 %), Iranians (28 %), and Hungarians (30 %). Meanwhile, the largest year-over-year decline in the number of citizens who perceive their country as democratic has been recorded in Poland.

There, the feeling of a “democratic deficit”- i.e. the difference between the number of people who think that democracy is important and those who think that their own country is living up to the democratic standards- has reached a record 55%, placing the country at the very bottom of the list of all 53 surveyed countries, together with Nigeria (54%), and Hungary (53%).

The study has also examined what the surveyed respondents believe to be the greatest threat to democracy around the world. Most of them – 64%- named economic inequality. The belief is shared most widely by people in Nigeria, Ukraine, Kenya, and Brazil, but also by 70% of the surveyed Poles.

The second most salient threat mentioned by 53 % of respondents concerned the limits on free speech. It is a common fear among nearly 50% of residents of countries considered to be "free" democracies, including 72% of respondents in Poland.

As many as half of the respondents are also afraid of electoral fraud. In Europe, the concern is voiced most often in Ukraine, Hungary, and Romania, but also in Poland (65%). The influence of big tech companies, social media platforms, or foreign powers were other threats to democracy mentioned by the respondents. As many as 45% of Europeans are also not satisfied with the influence the U.S. has on European democracy. However, after Joe Biden became president, the positive perception of the United States increased in most countries.

This year's study also looked at the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the perception of the state of democracy. The survey has found a growing tendency towards dissatisfaction with the way many governments have handled the pandemic. Europeans were especially critical of the decisions made by their governments: only 28% of Italians, 27% of the French, and 27 % of Poles said they are satisfied with how the authorities responded to the crisis.

The survey involved more than 53 thousand respondents from 53 countries, representing 75% of the world's population. The interviews were conducted between late February and mid-April this year.

The Democracy Perception Index was conducted by Latana and the Alliance of Democracies in the Spring of 2021, between February 24th and April 14th. The sample of n=53,194 online-connected respondents was drawn across 53 countries, with an average sample size of around 1,000 respondents per country.

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Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

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