US democratic indicators plummet amid racial protests, pandemic

New York, Sep 13 (IANS) The health of democracy in the United States has reached its lowest point amid racial justice protests and Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey has found.

The Bright Line Watch's survey found considerable declines since 2017 in the performance of democratic principles concerning limits on government power and accountability for its misuse.

Bright Line Watch is a multi-university initiative to monitor democratic practices, their resilience and potential threats.

“Performance declines since March 2020 are greatest for protections of free speech, toleration of peaceful protest, and protection from political violence,” the survey said.

“While there are a few bright spots in the latest report, the overall picture is cause for consternation,” said Gretchen Helmke, professor of political science at the University of Rochester.

“It is concerning that there has been so much erosion across the board on so many principles”.

The survey was completed before the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, August 23.

The 776 responding experts, polled between July 27 and August 17, see the overall quality of US democracy continuing on its downward trend, reaching the lowest point since Bright Line Watch began its surveys in early 2017.

Experts are concerned about the state of American elections.

“Although relatively few express significant concerns about fraud, the majority does not believe that elections are free from foreign influence”.

Two-thirds of the experts do not think that citizens have an equal opportunity to vote, or that all votes have equal impact.

“The most alarming findings, though not particularly surprising, are the steep declines in government protection for peaceful protest and the prevention of political violence,” Helmke said.

“This is really a new and quite worrisome trend, and, of course, our polling for this survey took place even before the events in Kenosha”.

The only significant improvement in performance is on the principle that the judiciary can effectively limit the executive, which rose from 44 per cent to 58 per cent of experts saying that the US “mostly” or “fully” meets this standard, the findings showed.



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