On November 3 at AEI, experts convened to celebrate Pew Research Center’s new report on global public opinions of democracy.
In his introductory remarks, Pew Research Center’s Richard Wike outlined the main findings of the report, which collected data from 38 countries to explore international support of democracy and attitudes toward nondemocratic forms of government. He explained that while the report’s data suggested broad support for representative and direct democracy worldwide, significant minorities endorsed nondemocratic alternatives.
The Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan disagreed with the concept of “democratic backsliding” and argued that the notion of states moving singularly toward democratic governance represents a selective view of history. The Center for American Progress’ Vikram Singh added that democracy can be threatened by those who appear to support it, noting that authoritarian regimes often initially come into power with populist democratic elections.
Open Society Foundations’ Stephen Rickard emphasized that faith in the democratic process is strongest in wealthier countries and that populations inevitably look for alternative forms of government if they feel their quality of life could be improved. AEI’s Danielle Pletka concluded that the desire to be free is universal and that democracy is a necessary but insufficient component to reaching such a goal.
Democracy appears to be in retreat globally. Over the past few years, countries with fledgling multiparty electoral systems have incrementally deteriorated, giving way to governments that more closely resemble authoritarian regimes. Established democracies such as Turkey also have witnessed sharp declines in the rule of law and adherence to democratic values. More troubling still is how rising revisionist governments — particularly Moscow and Beijing — have undermined democratic processes worldwide, aggravating an overall loss of faith in democracy.
In a new study, Pew Research Center examines these trends with data from 38 countries to explore global public opinion of democracy and attitudes toward nondemocratic forms of government. Join AEI and the Pew Research Center for a discussion on today’s greatest challenges to democracy and what can be done to preserve and strengthen the democratic ideal.
Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.
Richard Wike, Pew Research Center
Robert Kagan, Brookings Institution
Stephen Rickard, Open Society Foundation
Vikram Singh, Center for American Progress
Richard Wike, Pew Research Center
Danielle Pletka, AEI
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For more information, please contact Lindsey Weiss at [email protected], 202.828.6038.
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Robert Kagan is a senior fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy in the foreign policy program at Brookings Institution. He is a contributing columnist at The Washington Post. His most recent book is the New York Times bestseller, “The World America Made” (Vintage, 2013). His previous books include: “The Return of History and the End of Dreams” (Vintage, 2009), “Dangerous Nation: America’s Place in the World from Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the 20th Century” (Vintage, 2007), “Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order” (Vintage, 2004), and “A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977–1990” (Free Press, 1996). For his writings, Politico named Dr. Kagan one of the “Politico 50” in 2016 — a list of the “thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2016.” He served in the State Department from 1984 to 1988 as a member of the policy planning staff, as principal speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and as deputy for policy in the Office of Inter-American Affairs. He is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and holds a doctorate in American history from American University.
Danielle Pletka is senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, where she oversees the Institute’s work on foreign and defense issues. She writes regularly on national security matters with a special focus on Iran (weapons proliferation), the Middle East (Syria, Israel, ISIS, and the Arab Spring), and South Asia. Before joining AEI, Ms. Pletka was a longtime senior professional staff member for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where she specialized in the Near East and South Asia as the point person on the Middle East, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. Ms. Pletka is the coeditor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the coauthor of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her latest study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in 2014. Her television appearances include CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” and NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” She has been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, and Politico, among other outlets. She has an M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. from Smith College.
Stephen Rickard is the director of the Washington Advocacy Program and directs Open Society’s advocacy on US foreign policy. He is also executive director of the Open Society Policy Center. Before joining Open Society, Mr. Rickard created and ran the Freedom Investment Project and served as director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and as Washington director for Amnesty International USA. He served as the senior adviser in the US State Department’s Bureau of South Asian Affairs during the Bill Clinton administration. He also worked for Sen. Moynihan (D-NY) and the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate. In 2011, he was a Franklin Fellow in the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. In the 1980s, Mr. Rickard worked as a litigator with White & Case in New York, Stockholm, and Washington, DC. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.P.A. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and a B.A. from Adrian College.
Vikram Singh is a senior adviser for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress. He focuses on challenges to democracies from populism and technological change, Asia policy, and national defense and diplomacy. From 2014 to 2017, he was the center’s vice president for national security and international policy. Before joining the Center for American Progress, Mr. Singh was deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia at the Pentagon, where he oversaw defense strategies and plans for the region stretching from India to New Zealand. He previously served as the deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the US Department of State. He has been awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service and the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award. He holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and Columbia University.
Richard Wike is director of global attitudes research at Pew Research Center. He conducts research and writes about international public opinion on topics such as America’s global image, the rise of China, democracy, and globalization. He has authored numerous Pew Research Center reports, including “As Obama Years Draw to Close, President and U.S. Seen Favorably in Europe and Asia”; “Europeans Fear Wave of Refugees Will Mean More Terrorism, Fewer Jobs”; “Chinese Public Sees More Powerful Role in World, Names U.S. as Top Threat”; and “Global Support for Principle of Free Expression, but Opposition to Some Forms of Speech.” In addition, he has written pieces for the Financial Times, The Guardian, Politico, Foreign Policy, CNN, BBC, CNBC, and other online and print publications. Dr. Wike has been interviewed by American news organizations such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NBC, CNN, C-SPAN, and NPR, as well as numerous non-US news organizations, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, El País, BBC, Deutsche Welle, France 24, and Al Jazeera. He gives talks and presentations to a variety of audiences, including government, think tanks, business groups, and academic conferences. Before joining Pew Research Center, he was a senior associate for international and corporate clients at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. He received a doctorate in political science from Emory University.