The Polity Project

About Polity


The Polity IV Project continues the Polity research tradition of coding authority characteristics of states in the world system for purposes of comparative, quantitative analysis. An improved and enhanced Polity 5 version in the series is currently in development.


The Polity IV dataset covers all major, independent states in the global system over the period 1800-2015 (i.e., states with a total population of 500,000 or more in the most recent year; currently 167 countries). With the support of the Political Instability Task Force, the Polity IV Project has been transformed into a living data collection effort, meaning that it constantly monitors regime changes in all major countries and provides annual assessments of regime authority characteristics, changes and data updates.


The Polity conceptual scheme is unique in that it examines concomitant qualities of democratic and autocratic authority in governing institutions, rather than discreet and mutually exclusive forms of governance. 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-pont scale ranging from -10 (hereditary monarchy) to +10 (consolidated democracy). The Polity scores can also be converted into regime categories in a suggested three part categorization of "autocracies" (-10 to -6), "anocracies" (-5 to +5 and 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 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. Please see the Polity IV Users' Manual posted on the INSCR Data Page for more detailed information.

Polity is 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 reexamined during each annual update and may be revised in light of further information regarding institutional practice. In addition, historical cases are often reexamined, 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. Along with the annually updated version of the Polity IV data series, we provide a separate record of substantive changes made to the data record in "polity-case" format: Polity IVd.


Please click on any of the four displayed graphs above and below for a more detailed explanation of the nuanced characteristics of the Polity data series and its relationship to conflict management and the onset of political instability.


Click on this blue bar to go to the Polity IV Country Regime Trends Page, 1946-2012

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