Summary: The Polity Project is a data resource for studying different types of political regimes. It classifies the governing regimes of the world according to their commitment to democratic ideals, placing them on a scale with hereditary autocracies on one extreme and consolidated democracies on the other.
Main Points: The Polity IV Project carries data collection and analysis through 2012 and is under the direction of Dr. Monty G. Marshall and supported by the Political Instability Task Force, Societal-Systems Research Inc, and Center for Systemic Peace.
The Polity project examines concomitant qualities of democratic and autocratic authority in governing institutions. This perspective envisions a spectrum of governing authority that spans from fully institutionalized autocracies through mixed, or incoherent, authority regimes (termed "anocracies") to fully institutionalized democracies.
The "Polity Score" captures this regime authority spectrum on a 21-point scale ranging from -10 (hereditary monarchy) to +10 (consolidated democracy). The Polity scores can also be converted to regime categories: we recommend a three-part categorization of "autocracies" (-10 to -6), "anocracies" (-5 to +5 and the three special values: -66, -77, and -88), and "democracies" (+6 to +10).
The Polity scheme consists of six component measures that record key qualities of executive recruitment, constraints on executive authority, and political competition. It also records changes in the institutionalized qualities of governing authority. The Polity data include information only on the institutions of the central government and on political groups acting, or reacting, within the scope of that authority. It does not include consideration of groups and territories that are actively removed from that authority (i.e., separatists or "fragments"; these are considered separate, though not independent, polities) or segments of the population that are not yet effectively politicized in relation to central state politics.
The Polity IV dataset covers all major, independent states in the global system (i.e., states with total population of 500,000 or more in the most recent year; currently 167 countries) over the period 1800-2012. It constantly monitors regime changes in all major countries and provides annual assessments of regime authority characteristics and regime changes and data updates. It is also the most closely scrutinized data series on political issues as analysts and experts in academia, policy, and the intelligence community regularly examine and often challenge Polity codings. Monitoring real-time events requires Polity analysts to make tentative assessments of the trajectories of unfolding political dynamics and their effect on the essential qualities of governing institutions, or patterns of authority. Recent annual Polity records are routinely re-examined during each annual update and may be revised in light of further information regarding institutional practice. In addition, historical cases are often re-examined, often as a result of questions raised by users and country experts, and may be refined in conformance with new information or the correction of errors in the records.
The Polity IV data resources and Country Report series are now hosted on the Center for Systemic Peace Web site.
Access to database: http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm
Source: Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2012, Monty G. Marshall (Societal-Systems Research Inc.), Ted Robert Gurr (University of Maryland) http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm
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