Methodology | Freedom House


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Methodology Summary

The Freedom in the World survey provides an annual evaluation of the progress and decline of freedom in 195 countries and 14 related and disputed territories. The survey, which includes both analytical reports and numerical ratings, measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. Political rights ratings are based on an evaluation of three subcategories: electoral process, political pluralism and participation, and functioning of government. Civil liberties ratings are based on an evaluation of four subcategories: freedom of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights. 

Each country is assigned a numerical rating from 1 to 7 for both political rights and civil liberties, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free. The ratings are determined by the total number of points (up to 100) each country receives on 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions; countries receive 0 to 4 points on each question, with 0 representing the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of freedom. The average of the political rights and civil liberties ratings, known as the freedom rating, determines the overall status:  Free (1.0 to 2.5), Partly Free (3.0 to 5.0), or Not Free (5.5 to 7.0). Freedom House also assigns upward or downward trend arrows to countries which saw general positive or negative trends during the year that were not significant enough to result in a ratings change.

The survey assigns the designation of electoral democracy to countries that have met certain minimum standards. The numerical benchmark for a country to be listed as an electoral democracy is a total of 7 points or more (out of a possible 12) for the 3 political rights subcategory questions on electoral process, as well as a total of 20 points or more (out of a possible 40) for all 10 political rights questions.

Freedom House does not maintain a culture-bound view of freedom. The methodology of the survey is grounded in basic standards of political rights and civil liberties, derived in large measure from relevant portions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These standards apply to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development.

The survey does not rate governments or government performance per se, but rather the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals. Freedoms can be affected by state actions as well as by nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups.

The findings are reached after a multilayered process of analysis and evaluation by a team of in-house and consultant regional experts and scholars. The survey, which has been published since 1972, enables an examination of trends in freedom over time and on a comparative basis across regions with different political and economic systems. Freedom in the World’s ratings and narrative reports are used by policymakers, leading scholars, the media, and international organizations in monitoring the ebb and flow of freedom worldwide.