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Conceptualizing and Measuring Democracy: A New Approach

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2011

Michael Coppedge
Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the University of Notre Dame (
John Gerring
Boston University (
David Altman
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Michael Bernhard
University of Florida
Steven Fish
University of California, Berkeley
Allen Hicken
University of Michigan
Matthew Kroenig
Georgetown University
Staffan I. Lindberg
Gothenburg University and the University of Florida
Kelly McMann
Case Western Reserve University
Pamela Paxton
University of Texas at Austin
Holli A. Semetko
Emory University
Svend-Erik Skaaning
Aarhus University
Jeffrey Staton
Emory University
Jan Teorell
Lund University


In the wake of the Cold War, democracy has gained the status of a mantra. Yet there is no consensus about how to conceptualize and measure regimes such that meaningful comparisons can be made through time and across countries. In this prescriptive article, we argue for a new approach to conceptualization and measurement. We first review some of the weaknesses among traditional approaches. We then lay out our approach, which may be characterized as historical,multidimensional,disaggregated, and transparent. We end by reviewing some of the payoffs such an approach might bring to the study of democracy.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2011

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