Measuring Subnational Democracy

36 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2016 Last revised: 10 Jun 2016

See all articles by Kelly M. McMann

Kelly M. McMann

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Political Science; University of Gothenburg - V-Dem Institute

Date Written: March 1, 2016


Social scientists and practitioners have been limited in their work by the paucity of data about subnational institutions and practices. Such data could help scholars refine regime typologies, improve theories of democratization and regime change, better understand subnational democracy, and illuminate issues of development, conflict, and governance. They could also enable democracy and development advocates to design more effective programs and officials to create better policies. This paper addresses the lack of data by introducing 22 subnational measures from a new dataset, Varieties of Democracy. Validity tests demonstrate that the measures’ strengths outweigh their weaknesses. The measures excel in covering all subnational levels for most countries, capturing different elements of subnational elections, and including a variety of dimensions of elections and civil liberties. The measures also offer unmatched global and temporal coverage. The paper demonstrates how these strengths can provide scholars and practitioners with the benefits described above.

Suggested Citation

McMann, Kelly M., Measuring Subnational Democracy (March 1, 2016). V-Dem Working Paper 2016:26, Available at SSRN: or

Kelly M. McMann (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Political Science ( email )

11201 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106
United States

University of Gothenburg - V-Dem Institute ( email )

United States

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