Methodology of study concluding GOP is 'eroding freedoms' comes under fire

The report relied on 2020 data from the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden that they say aggregated “political scientists’ measures of the democratic commitment of political parties around the world.” They focused on the parties’ commitment to democracy from 1970 to 2018  and concluded that “the GOP has moved entirely in the wrong direction over the past half century.”

“V-Party’s Illiberalism Index shows that the Republican party in the US has retreated from upholding democratic norms in recent years. Its rhetoric is closer to authoritarian parties, such as AKP in Turkey and Fidesz in Hungary,” the researchers said. “Conversely, the Democratic party has retained a commitment to longstanding democratic standards.”

FiveThirtyEight managing editor Micah Cohen called it perhaps “the most important trend(s) during [the] last few years in American politics.”

“The GOP’s restrictionist bent sends the message that Republicans don’t want Black and brown Americans to vote,” FiveThirtyEight concluded.

Twitter users immediately spotted some red flags in the chart, notably the “totally-flat blue line.”

Freelance journalist Jeryl Bier was among the observers questioning the researchers’ curious criteria and the lopsided results. 

“I found unacceptable 538’s use of a chart on ‘eroding democracy’ without a full examination and disclosure of how the organization that produced the chart defines erosion of democracy,” Bier said in a statement to Fox News. “The details show that criteria such as ‘invokes religion’ and ‘no state support for working women’ are strikes against democracy as defined by the V-Dem Institute, the organization that produced the chart, defines it.”


The same study found that Democrats have at times had almost spotless records on not encouraging violence.

Bier notes that he has concerns about the direction of the GOP, but the Democrats, he said, “have their own tendencies to answer for” and “a chart that shows the Democrats have a 50-year history of unwavering support for democracy is laughable.”

He wasn’t the only one laughing.

The report condemning the GOP is a trend as of late. The Washington Free Beacon recently reported on University of Washington’s Jake Grumbach study entitled, “Laboratories of Democratic Backsliding,” which similarly concluded that “Republican control of state government is bad for democracy.” Just as the social media users above questioned the V-Dem Institute’s scores, the Free Beacon found flaws in Grumbach’s methodology.

“But a closer look at Grumbach’s scoring system reveals a paradox: At least three of the factors that decrease a state’s democracy score—voter ID laws, high incarceration rates, and denying felons the right to vote—are things that large majorities of Americans support,” the Free Beacon wrote. “According to Grumbach, maximizing democracy means defying the popular will.”

Most political scientists, the Free Beacon wrote, “just seem to be measuring their own biases, which are then passed off as impartial, statistical truths.”

“Bias enters the measurements in two ways: the choice of variables used as proxies for democracy and the process by which those proxies are assessed,” the outlet added.

Progressives have ripped Republican-led voting measures over the past several months, such as the election bill in Georgia, as racist. MSNBC host Joy Reid was among the pundits who even referred to the measure as the “Jim Crow voter suppression law.” Republicans adamantly pushed back on those claims, saying their efforts are intended to protect election integrity.

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