The Freedom in the World report assess’ the rights and freedoms enjoyed by individual citizens – as opposed to the performance of the government – using a three-tiered system of scores, ratings, and status in order to determine whether the country or territory can be considered free, partly free, or not free. The methodology used is rather unique for politics, in that it does not ‘discriminate’ against “geographic location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development.” It also makes the population of the countries and territories irrelevant by not penalizing those with small populations “lacking pluralism in the political system or civil society if [the] limitations are determined to be a function of size, [rather than] restrictions by the government or other powerful actors.
One strength of the methodology is that the assessment has a greater emphasis on whether or not the laws and practice of the government are actually implemented, rather than just assessing whether or not the law and/or practice is or is not supposed to exist.This is especially important because governments don’t exactly practice what they preach. For example, the current president and prime minister of france repeatedly advertise that they are in the fight against terrorism and anti-semitism, when, in reality, they are funding the groups causing those conflicts. As opposed to being based off of one question or someone’s general opinion, the methodology follows a specific, detailed criteria and questions in order to decide which category the country or territory falls in. For example, when it comes to rating whether or not a country or territory is an electoral democracy, the methodology specifies the definition that is used for the term, which can have multiple interpretations.
With strengths, comes weaknesses and despite how much attention is paid to detail in the question aspect of the analysis, it lacks clarity in the explanation of scores. Each political rights and civil liberties score has certain criteria to meet except for scores 3, 4, and 5. These scores seem to be lumped together and it is unclear as to what standards differ the three scores. Another weakness is the bias that comes with analyzing in general. Although, measures have been put in place to reduce this bias, the analysts and advisors ultimately come from diverse backgrounds, which can easily affect how they interpret each country and territory. The way in which “Freedom in the World operates from the assumption that freedom for all peoples is best achieved in liberal democratic societies” could also be seen as bringing in another bias, however, because it is said before-the-fact, when reviewing the results it is helpful in knowing where the basis of the decision came from.
No matter how many measures are put in place, there will always be a bias in any analysis, especially when it comes to politics and although the explanation of what each score entails could be clearer, the Freedom House methodology does a great job quantifying aspects of political systems that are not easy to quantify. Overall, Freedom House’s guidelines and procedures to score and rate a country or specific territory on their political rights and civil liberties are quite reliable given the amount of depth and specifics the analysis covers.