Measuring and assessing subnational electoral democracy: a new dataset for the Americas and India


Assessing how democracy varies within countries is paramount to the subnational turn in comparative politics. Despite recent contributions, we still lack a comparable measure of democracy for provinces inside countries. To overcome this limitation, I present the Index of Subnational Electoral Democracy (ISED), a measure that tracks the electoral dimension of democracy across the provinces of nine Latin American countries, the United States, Canada, and India for a period of roughly 40 years, making it the largest dataset on subnational regime outcomes to date. I then use the ISED to assess the democratic trajectories of Argentinian, Brazilian, Mexican, and Indian states, revealing that: 1) Indian provinces have been, on average, more democratic than their Latin American counterparts. 2) The relative position of provincial regimes within these countries has been remarkably stable over time. 3) Most subnational units in the Americas have had “low intensity” regimes. 4) Subnational regime hybridity has been the norm rather than the exception, and that 5) for the Latin American cases under consideration, democracy and development are positively connected at the local level. I conclude by outlining the ISED’s research applications and reflecting on the implications of these five conclusions for future research on subnational democracy.

Javier Pérez Sandoval
Javier Pérez Sandoval
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

My research focuses on subnational regime heterogeneity across Latin America.