Back to top

Methodology: indicators for expression

The complete V-Dem data set includes over 350 indicators that measure different aspects of democracy worldwide. In addition to the original V-Dem data set we incorporate measures from The Digital Society Project (DSP), founded in 2018 with the goal of analysing the complex effects of Internet and social media on the different layers of society.

In producing the XpA Report, ARTICLE 19 worked with V-Dem to select the 39 indicators described below which best matched with our broad and holistic view of freedom of expression. In 161 countries, 39 indicators  were included in a Bayesian measurement model to create our metric, the XpA. These indicators were also used separately to create five other scores which relate to different expression themes:

  • Civic space – the space to participate in public debate and political action;
  • Digital – ability to express oneself via the internet;
  • Media – the environment for outlets and publications;
  • Protection – the safety and security of those who express themselves; and
  • Transparency – the ability of people to gain information and force accountability from powerholders.

You can see how each indicator relates to each theme,below.  To address variation in coder ratings, V-Dem works closely with leading social science research methodologists and has developed a Bayesian measurement model that, to the extent possible, addresses coder error and issues of comparability across countries and over time. V-Dem also provides upper and lower point estimates, which represent a range of probable values for a given observation. When the ranges of two observations do not overlap, we are relatively confident that difference between them is significant.

 

V-Dem draws on theoretical and methodological expertise from its worldwide team to produce data in the most objective and reliable way possible. Approximately half of the indicators in the V-Dem dataset are based on factual information obtainable from official documents such as constitutions and government records. The remainder consists of more subjective assessments on topics like democratic and governing practices and compliance with de jure rules. On such issues, typically five experts provide ratings for the country, thematic area and time period for which they have expertise.

To address variation in coder ratings, V-Dem works closely with leading social science research methodologists and has developed a Bayesian measurement model that, to the extent possible, addresses coder error and issues of comparability across countries and over time. V-Dem also provides upper and lower point estimates, which represent a range of probable values for a given observation. When the ranges of two observations do not overlap, we are relatively confident that difference between them is significant. V-Dem is continually experimenting with new techniques and soliciting feedback from experts throughout the field. In this sense, V-Dem remains at the cutting edge of developing new and improved methods to increase both the reliability and comparability of expert survey data. V-Dem also draws on the team’s academic expertise to develop theoretically informed techniques for aggregating indicators into mid- and high-level indices.

Overall Scores and Country Rankings

For each country we provide an overall score, as well as scores for each theme, based on point estimates from the Bayesian measurement models. The average scores are provided for each region and throughout the text we point out those countries which are ‘outliers’ for those regions, being more than one standard deviation from the mean average for the region.[1] Throughout the text we refer to the quartile in which a country sits in relation to other countries across the world, based on its freedom of expression score.

For each region, we sorted the countries by their freedom of expression and thematic scores for 2018 to provide a list of the ‘Top’ and ‘Bottom’ ranked countries for each region. Those top and bottom lists are provided at the beginning of each section.

Decliners and Advancers Over Specified Time Periods

For each of our key timeframes (1-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year), we have identified five ‘Decliners’ and five ‘Advancers’ – countries which show meaningful and holistic improvement or deterioration.

These countries are identified using two criteria to determine the significance of change in freedom of expression over the time:

  1. The score changes over the time period had to fall outside of the upper- and lower-point estimates provided by V-Dem. When the amount of change feel above the median for Advancers (or below the median for Decliners), we used 50% of the confidence interval as the gauge for year over year change. When countries fell below the median, we used the more conservative definition of significant change which restricted interpretation to the original confidence intervals (68% confidence level).
  2. Countries also must have also seen significant changes on at least three of the five thematic scores over the same period.

2018 World Bank Indicators –  Population 

We used the country-level population data provided by World Bank to determine the total number of people who were in environments where there was a decline in freedom of expression.

 

 

 

 

[1] Standard deviation is a measure of how a group are spread out from the mean. In a normal distribution, 68% of the data values will fall within one standard deviation of the mean value. Countries that fell outside of that spread (+/-) are identified as significantly different from other countries in that region. For more, see full methodology on px