US no longer a 'full democracy,' report claims

The United States may no longer be the bastion of democracy its citizens have come to hold as an American value, according to a report released Wednesday.

The 2016 Democracy Index, produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit in the United Kingdom, now lists the U.S. as a "flawed democracy" instead of the "full democracy" ranking it's held previously, citing the declining trust in government as the cause.

The downgrade now puts the U.S. at 21 in international rankings, below Japan and tied with Italy. The number of "full democracies" dropped in 2016 from 20 to 19, according to the report.

The economic organization gives grades through five categories: Electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. It then ranks countries as either a full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.

While the report was released the first week of the presidency of Donald Trump, the group stressed the lower ranking was not due to the new administration, but rather to public confidence in government.

"By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr. Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which U.S. voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation," the report reads.

The U.S. has been "teetering on the brink of becoming a flawed democracy" for years, according to the report.

The erosion of the U.S. public trust in government began in the 1960s with the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy and the Watergate scandal, the report says, using data from the Pew Research Center.

“Trust in political institutions is an essential component of well-functioning democracies,” the report said. “Yet surveys by Pew, Gallup and other polling agencies have confirmed that public confidence in government has slumped to historic lows in the U.S. This has had a corrosive effect on the quality of democracy.”

The United States wasn't the only country to see a drop. Almost half of the 167 countries in the report had their grade lowered in 2016 by the group.

In terms of rankings, the top three scores went to Norway, Iceland and Sweden. The lowest ranked countries in the authoritarian regime group included North Korea, Syria, Chad, and the Central African Republic.