For my project, one dataset I would use is the Polity database. Its citation is as follows:

Gurr, Ted and Monty Marshall. Polity Data Series, Political Instability Taskforce. Updated June 2014.

The Polity dataset is a widely used source of data on the level of democracy in governments around the world. To produce a government’s final score (from 10 for a full democracy to -10 for an autocracy), the dataset uses six “component variables, which are as follows:

  • Regulation of Chief Executive Recruitment: the level of explicit institutionalization in the selection of the head of government. More institutionalized is more democratic.
  • Competitiveness of Executive Recruitment : the level mobility of figures up the executive hierarchy. Hand-picked selections are the least democratic and elections are the most
  • Openness of Executive Recruitment: what part of the population is able to actually attain a position through this process. More opportunity is more democratic.
  • Executive Constraints: how much institutional control there is over the executive. More constraint is more democratic.
  • Regulation of Participation: the level of institutionalization of the political participation (e.g. voting) process. Clearer, more institutionalized participation is more democratic.
  • The Competitiveness of Participation: how much opposition can realistically be pursued in the political process. More room for opposition is more democratic.

The dataset covers all states with populations above 500,000 in every year since 1800. All together, there are 17,061 cases in the set.

The limitations of the dataset can be found primarily in the process of transferring the data into a coherent understanding of democracy. Although the variables used are extensive in nature, they could probably never be extensive enough to capture the entire picture of a state’s level of democracy. And the collection of data also poses a challenge. Many of the variables may depend on records kept of elections, which may be unreliable or nonexistent in many countries.

Article comparison

For this article comparison, I continued with the theme of US military interventions to promote democracy, although I am still not entirely resolved to take my research puzzle in that direction. Specifically, I will compare two articles that examine the actual efficacy of American military intervention in promoting democracy. The articles come to largely opposite conclusions about these effects. This is an important theoretical debate because the question of results — whether American strategies, in this case military, can change other governments — is the motivating factor behind the actual deploying of such policies. One of these articles is a statistical analysis of US military interventions that emphasized the operationalization and measurement of democracy, and the other is a historical narrative of a few cases that emphasized the political preconditions necessary for a successful intervention.

The first article was the statistical analysis by Hermann and Kegley (1998). Analyzing the Polity III democracy and autocracy scores for a large set of countries in which the United States intervened, they found that intervention increased the level of democracy in the targeted country under almost all circumstances, and they then applied different variables to determine which factors impact the outcome most. Their main contribution is the breadth of their analysis and their answer as to whether the interventions succeed in the first place. The most useful item they provide to my own research is a great deal of data about US military democracy promotion.

Art (1991) produced a narrative detailing America’s interventions in German, Japan, Nicaragua, Chile, Grenada, and Panama to identify the impact of the specific conditions in each country had on the efficacy of the intervention. He concludes that the benefits of military intervention almost never justify the harms, and that interventions only reach such a level of net success when ” the nation invaded is small and militarily weak, the intervention is welcomed by the bulk of the populace, the costs in American casualties are relatively low, and the probability of success is high” (p. 43). His main contribution is the identification of those four factors, and that is also his largest contribution to my research.

Most obviously, these two articles, and their schools of thought, disagree on the conclusion. Whereas Hermann and Kegley found that military intervention had a positive effect on democracy, Art found no such benefit, and concluded that the costs are overwhelming. Methodologically, the number of cases examined in each article is of importance. Hermann and Kegley could say that Art’s research is biased because he focused so exclusively on the most expensive (German and Japan) and least successful (Chile and Nicaragua) cases, while Art could say that Hermann and Kegley’s inclusion of more than 60 cases prevents them from really examining important factors in individual states.

Moving forward in my research, these articles moved up one particular puzzle on my hierarchy of interest, that being how the level of organization of democratic movements in individual countries affects the success of US democracy promotion. I very well may end of researching that, whether I choose the military route or not.


Art, Robert. “A Defensible Defense: America’s Grand Strategy after the Cold War.” International Security 15, no. 4 (1991): pp. 5-53.

Hermann, Margaret G. and Charles W. Kegley Jr. “The U.S. use of military intervention to promote democracy: Evaluating the record.” International Interactions 24, no. 2 (1998): 91-114.