's Comparative Politics/Criteria of Democracy

Dahl's Criteria for Democracy


At its base, a democracy is where the heads of government in a state's are chosen by a vote of the citizens of the state; their votes must be made without coercion and after voters have had the opportunity to hear the candidates. Robert Dahl, a leading scholar on democracy, has provided a framework for when a country is a democracy; these five criteria include:

Effective participation meaning that the people should have an adequate and equal opportunity to have their voices heard in the decision making process, voting equality meaning that all votes should count equally (for instance, Bill Gates's vote is no more important than yours or mine), enlightened understanding which means that the people should have adequate and equal access to information so that they can make the best possible decision, control of the agenda meaning only the people should be able to decide what decisions are debated and voted upon and, finally, the system must be inclusive meaning that all adults in the society, unless incapable, should be authorized to participate in the political process and not precluded therefrom. (Adopted from Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics pg 108-118 and 129-131)