Methodology | Freedom House


Read a Country or a Territory Report

The Freedom House Countries at the Crossroads survey provides a comparative evaluation of government performance in four touchstone areas of democratic governance: Accountability and Public Voice, Civil Liberties, Rule of Law, and Anticorruption and Transparency. This survey examines these areas of performance in a set of 30 countries that are at a critical crossroads in determining their political future.

The timeframe for events covered is October 1, 2003, through September 30, 2004. In addition, for this baseline survey authors were asked to reference any defining events, major reforms or setbacks, or critical trends prior to October 1, 2003, that helped to illuminate the current state of affairs.

The 2005 edition is the second in the Countries at the Crossroads series. It examines 30 countries distinct from those in the 2004 edition. In cooperation with a team of methodology experts, Freedom House designed a methodology that includes a questionnaire used both to prepare analytical narratives and for numerical ratings for each government. The survey methodology provides authors with a transparent and consistent guide to scoring and analyzing the countries under review and uses identical benchmarks for both narratives and ratings, rendering the two indicators mutually reinforcing. The final result is a system of comparative ratings accompanied by narratives that reflect both governments' commitment to passing good laws and also their records on upholding them.

The survey's methodology was created for the 2004 edition by a committee of senior advisers from the academic and scholarly communities. Its members were Larry Diamond, Hoover Institution; Adrian Karatnycky, Freedom House; Paul Martin, Columbia University; Rick Messick, the World Bank; Ted Piccone, Open Society Institute; Louise Shelley, American University; Jay Verkuilen, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Ruth Wedgwood, Johns Hopkins University; and Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House. In consultation with the committee, the Freedom House staff revised and updated the methodology for 2005. Most notably, a new subsection on property rights has been included under the Rule of Law section.

Freedom House enlisted the participation of prominent scholars and analysts to author the survey's country reports. In preparing the survey's written analyses with accompanying comparative ratings, Freedom House undertook a systematic gathering of data. Each country narrative report is approximately 6,000 words. Expert regional advisers reviewed the draft narrative reports, providing written comments and requests for revisions, additions, or clarifications. Authors were asked to respond as fully as possible to all of the questions posed when composing the analytical narratives; thus, the country narrative reports help inform the numerical scores.

For all 30 countries in the survey, Freedom House, in consultation with the report authors and academic advisers, has provided numerical ratings for the four thematic categories listed above. Authors produced a first round of ratings for each subcategory by evaluating each of the questions and assigning scores on a scale of 0-7, where 0 represents weakest performance and 7 represents strongest performance. The regional advisers and Freedom House staff systematically reviewed all country ratings on a comparative basis to ensure accuracy and fairness. All final ratings decisions rest with Freedom House.

Scores are assigned on a scale of 0-7, where 0 represents weakest performance and 7 represents strongest performance. These ratings allow for comparative analysis of reform among the countries surveyed and are valuable for making general assessments of the level of democratic governance in a given country; they should not be taken as absolute indicators of the situation in a given country.

In devising a framework for evaluating government performance, Freedom House sought to develop a scale broad enough to capture degrees of variation so that comparisons could be made between countries in the current year, and also so that future time series comparisons might be made to assess a country's progress in these areas relative to past performance. These scales achieve an effective balance between a scoring system that is too broad-which may make it difficult for analysts to make fine distinctions between different scores-and one that is too narrow-which may make it difficult to capture degrees of variation between countries and therefore more difficult to recognize how much a given government's performance has improved or eroded over time.

Narrative essays and scoring were applied to the following main of performance, which Freedom House considers to be key to evaluating the state of democratic governance within a country:


  • Free and fair electoral laws and elections
  • Effective and accountable government
  • Civic engagement and civic monitoring
  • Media independence and freedom of expression


  • Protection from state terror, unjustified imprisonment, and torture
  • Gender equity and minority rights
  • Freedom of conscience and belief
  • Freedom of association


  • Independent judiciary
  • Primacy of rule of law in civil and criminal matters
  • Accountability of security forces and military to civilian authorities
  • Property rights


  • Environment to protect against corruption
  • Existence of laws, ethical standards, and boundaries between private and public sectors
  • Enforcement of anticorruption laws
  • Governmental transparency

In addition to the main subject matter areas, authors were asked to prepare an Introduction, giving a brief history of the country and outlining key issues in its development. At the end of each of the four major category sections, the authors provide succinct recommendations for the regime to take with respect to areas of most immediate and pressing concern.

Scoring Range

The Countries at the Crossroads survey rates countries' performance in each of the four major subject areas on a scale of 0 to 7, with 0 representing the weakest performance and 7 the strongest. The scoring scale is as follows:

Score of 0-2: Countries that receive a score of 0, 1, or 2 ensure no or very few adequate protections, legal standards, or rights in the rated category. Laws protecting the rights of citizens or the justice of the political process are nonexistent, rarely enforced, or routinely abused by the authorities.
Score of 3-4: Countries that receive a score of 3 or 4 provide few or very few adequate protections, legal standards, or rights in the rated category. Legal protections are weak and enforcement of the law is inconsistent or corrupt.
Score of 5: Countries that receive a score of 5 provide some adequate protections, legal standards or rights in the rated category. Rights and political standards are protected, but enforcement may be unreliable and some abuses may occur. A score of 5 is considered to be the minimally adequate performance in the rated category.
Score of 6-7: Countries that receive a score of 6-7 ensure nearly all adequate protections, legal standards, or rights in the rated category. Legal protections are strong and are usually enforced fairly. Citizens have access to legal redress when their rights are violated, and the political system functions smoothly.

Countries at the Crossroads 2005 Methodology Questions
1. Accountability and Public Voice  
1.a. Free and fair electoral laws and elections 
1.a.i) Is the authority of government based upon the will of the people as expressed by regular, free, and fair elections under fair electoral laws, with universal and equal suffrage, open to multiple parties, conducted by secret ballot, monitored by independent electoral authorities, with honest tabulation of ballots, and free of fraud and intimidation?
1.a.ii) Are there equal campaigning opportunities for all parties?
1.a.iii) Is there the opportunity for the effective rotation of power among a range of different political parties representing competing interests and policy options?
1.a.iv) Are there adequate regulations to prevent undue influence of economically privileged interests (e.g.effective campaign finance laws)?

1.b. Effective and accountable government 
1.b.i) Are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government able to oversee the actions of one another and hold each other accountable for any excessive exercise of power?
1.b.ii) Does the state system ensure that people's political choices are free from domination by the specific interests of power groups (e.g.the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, regional hierarchies, and/or economic oligarchies)?
1.b.iii) Is the civil service selected on the basis of open competition and by merit?
1.b.iv) Is the state engaged in issues reflecting the interests of women; ethnic, religious, and other distinct groups; and disabled people? 

1.c. Civic engagement and civic monitoring 
1.c.i) Are civic groups able to testify, comment on, and influence pending government policy or legislation?
1.c.ii) Are nongovernmental organizations free from legal impediments from the state and from onerous requirements for registration?
1.c.iii) Are donors and funders of civic organizations and public policy institutes free of state pressures?

1.d. Media independence and freedom of expression 
1.d.i) Does the state refrain from direct and indirect censorship of the media?
1.d.ii) Does the state oppose onerous libel laws that would impede open criticism of state officials?
1.d.iii) Does the state protect individuals from imprisonment for the free expression of their views?
1.d.iv) Does the government otherwise refrain from determining or controlling media content (e.g.through direct ownership of media, distribution networks, or ownership of printing facilities; prohibitive tariffs; selective investigation; or intimidation)?
1.d.v) Does the state refrain from funding the media in order to propagandize, primarily provide official points of view, and/or limit access by opposition parties and civic critics? Does the state protect the freedom of cultural expression (e.g., in fictional works, art, etc.)?
2. Civil Liberties  
2.a. Protection from state terror, unjustified imprisonment, and torture 
2.a.i) Is there protection against torture by officers of the state, including through effective punishment in cases where torture is found to have occurred?
2.a.ii) Are prison conditions humane and respectful of the human dignity of inmates?
2.a.iii) Does the state effectively protect against or respond to killings of political opponents or other peaceful activists?
2.a.iv) Are there effective protections against arbitrary arrest, including of political opponents or other peaceful activists?
2.a.v) Is there effective protection against long-term detention without trial? Does the state protect citizens from abuse by private/nonstate actors?
2.a.vii) Do citizens have means of effective petition and redress when their rights are violated by state authorities?

2.b. Gender equity and rights of ethnic, religious, and other distinct groups 
2.b.i) Does the state ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights?
2.b.ii) Does the state take measures to prevent trafficking in women and children?
2.b.iii) Does the state take measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs, and practices that constitute discrimination against women?
2.b.iv) Does the state ensure that persons belonging to ethnic, religious, and other distinct groups exercise fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms (including ethnic, cultural, and linguistic rights) without discrimination and with full equality before the law?
2.b.v) Does the state take measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs, and practices that constitute discrimination against ethnic, religious, and other distinct groups? Does the state make a progressive effort to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs, and practices that constitute discrimination against disabled people?
2.b.vii) Does the state make reasonable efforts to protect against all forms of discrimination in employment and occupation?

2.c. Freedom of conscience and belief 
2.c.i) Does the state protect the rights of nonbelievers or adherents of minority religious faiths and movements?
2.c.ii) Does the state refrain from interference in the appointment of religious or spiritual leaders and in the internal organizational activities of faith-related organizations?
2.c.iii) Does the state refrain from placing restrictions on religious observance, religious ceremony, and religious education?
2.c.iv) Does the state otherwise ensure the free practice of religion?

2.d. Freedom of association 
2.d.i) Does the state recognize every person's right to freedom of association?
2.d.ii) Does the state respect the right to form and join trade unions?
2.d.iii) Are citizens protected from being compelled by the state to belong to an association, either directly or indirectly (e.g.because certain indispensable benefits are conferred on members)?
2.d.iv) Does the state effectively protect and recognize the rights of civic associations, business organizations, and political organizations to organize, mobilize, and advocate for peaceful purposes?
2.d.v) Does the state refrain from excessive force in dealing with demonstrations and public protests?
3. Rule of Law  
3.a. Independent judiciary 
3.a.i) Is there independence, impartiality, and nondiscrimination in the administration of justice, including from economic, political or religious influences?
3.a.ii) Are judges and magistrates protected from interference by the executive and/or legislative branches?
3.a.iii) Do legislative, executive, and other governmental authorities comply with judicial decisions, which are not subject to change except through established procedures for judicial review?
3.a.iv) Are judges appointed and dismissed in a fair and unbiased manner?
3.a.v) Do judges have adequate legal training before assuming the bench?
3.b. Primacy of rule of law in civil and criminal matters 
3.b.i) According to the legal system, is everyone charged with a criminal offence presumed innocent until proven guilty?
3.b.ii) Are citizens given a fair, public, and timely hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal?
3.b.iii) Do citizens have the right and access to independent counsel?
3.b.iv) Does the state provide citizens charged with serious felonies with access to independent counsel when it is beyond their means?
3.b.v) Are prosecutors independent of political direction and control? Are public officials and ruling party actors prosecuted for the abuse of power and other wrongdoing?
3.b.vii) Are all persons treated equally before the courts and tribunals?

3.c. Accountability of security forces and military to civilian authorities 
3.c.i)  Is there effective and democratic civilian state control of the police, military, and internal security forces through the judicial, legislative, and executive branches?
3.c.ii) Are police, military, and internal security services free from the influence and direction of nonstate actors?
3.c.iii) Do police, military, and internal security services refrain from interfering in the political process?

3.d.Protection of property rights 
3.d.i) Does the state give everyone the right to own property alone as well as in association with others?
3.d.ii) Does the state adequately enforce property rights and contracts?
3.d.iii) Does the state protect citizens from the arbitrary and/or unjust deprivation of their property (e.g.Does the state unjustly revoke property titles for governmental use or to pursue a political agenda?)? 
3.d.iv) Does the state adequately address discrepancies between official and traditional (e.g.aboriginal) property laws?
4. Anticorruption and Transparency  
4.a. Environment to protect against corruption 
4.a.i) Is the government free from excessive bureaucratic regulations, registration requirements, and/or other controls that increase opportunities for corruption?
4.a.ii) Does the state refrain from excessive involvement in the economy?
4.a.iii) Does the state enforce the separation of public office from the personal interests of public officeholders?
4.a.iv) Are there adequate financial disclosure procedures that prevent conflicts of interest among public officials (e.g.Are the assets declarations of public officials open to public and media scrutiny and verification?)?
4.a.v) Does the state adequately protect against conflicts of interest in the private sector?

4.b.Existence of laws, ethical standards, and boundaries between private and public sectors 
4.b.i) Does the state enforce an effective legislative or administrative process designed to promote integrity and to prevent, detect, and punish the corruption of public officials?
4.b.ii) Does the state provide victims of corruption with adequate mechanisms to pursue their rights?
4.b.iii) Does the state protect higher education from pervasive corruption and graft (e.g.Are bribes necessary to gain admission or good grades?)?
4.b.iv) Does the tax administrator implement effective internal audit systems to ensure the accountability of tax collection?
4.b.v) Is there an auditing body outside of the executive and free from political influence ( auditor general or ombudsman) that has wide-ranging authority to report on instances of funds being unlawfully or unwisely spent?

4.c.Enforcement of anticorruption laws 
4.c.i) Are there effective and independent investigative and auditing bodies created by the government and do they function without impediment or political pressure?
4.c.ii) Are allegations of corruption by government officials at the national and local levels thoroughly investigated and prosecuted without prejudice?
4.c.iii) Are allegations of corruption given wide and extensive airing in the news media?
4.c.iv) Do whistleblowers, anticorruption activists, investigators have a legal environment that protects them, so they feel secure about reporting cases of bribery and corruption?

4.d.Governmental transparency 
4.d.i) Is there significant legal, regulatory, and judicial transparency as manifested through public access to government information?
4.d.ii) Do citizens have a legal right to obtain information about government operations, and means to petition government agencies for it?
4.d.iii) Does the state make a progressive effort to provide information about government services and decisions in formats and settings that are accessible to disabled people?
4.d.iv) Is the executive budget-making process comprehensive and transparent and subject to meaningful legislative review and scrutiny?
4.d.v) Does the government publish detailed accounting of expenditures in a timely fashion? Does the state ensure transparency, open-bidding, and effective competition in the awarding of government contracts?
4.d.vii) Does the government enable the legal administration and distribution of foreign assistance?