When You Can’t Add it Up: Measuring Democracy with QCA

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


IFiS Publishers

Research Projects

Organizational Units

Journal Issue


Typical democracy measures rely upon categorical classification or continuous indices to indicate the level of democracy in a study’s nations. Using Qualitative Comparative Analysis techniques, we demonstrate an alternative method for measuring democracy that retains – in the measure itself – the full-range of included components, which previous measures use in their construction, but conceal in their resultant scores. We directly compare the new measure to existing measures to (a) highlight existing measures’ forced comparisons between incommensurate components, and (b) reveal components used to calculate existing measures that do not substantially contribute to nations’ democratic classification within them. We then indirectly compare the performance of such a measure to others with an example estimating the relationship between economic development and democracy. The article concludes by discussing some additional advantages of the QCA measure, acknowledging some of its weaknesses, and suggesting several extensions for its use.



Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), democracy, measurement


Ask: Research and Methods. Volume 21, Issue 1 (2012), pp. 31-54