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Another reason not to believe the Electoral Integrity Project

Nick Stevenson writes:

If wonder if the Electoral Integrity Project still wants to defend Rwanda’s score of 64? Or is the U.S. (electoral integrity score 61) just jealous?

Stevenson was reacting to a news article from the Washington Post (sorry, the link no longer works) that reported:

The United States said Saturday it was “disturbed by irregularities observed during voting” in Rwanda’s election, which longtime President Paul Kagame won with nearly 99 percent of the vote.

A State Department statement reiterated “long-standing concerns over the integrity of the vote-tabulation process.”

Last time we heard about the Electoral Integrity Project, it was in the context of their claims that North Carolina is no longer a democracy but North Korea isn’t so bad (see also this response by Pippa Norris).

I responded that this Rwanda thing does seem to represent a problem with the international measure, similar to what happened with North Korea. Perhaps the measures are implicitly on a relative scale, so that Rwanda = 64 because Rwanda is about as bad as one might expect given its reputation, while U.S. = 61 because the U.S. is worse than one might hope, given its reputation?

Stevenson replied:

I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as North Korea, which is obviously a zero by any reasonable metric.

Kagame does have some defenders—see this article from today by Melina Platas in the Monkey Cage which notes that Kagame (like Putin) is domestically popular—accompanied by some rather eye-popping concessions:

Are some Rwandans intimidated by the state? Certainly. Does the ruling party have roots down to the lowest level? Definitely. Do opposition candidates have far fewer resources? Undeniably. Are some of those who wish to run for president unable to? Yes.

But I don’t think the author of this piece would maintain that Rwanda’s elections were freer and fairer than the USA’s.

This exchange happened in Aug 2016. I contacted Norris who said that the data would be available in February/March 2018. So anyone who’s interested should be able to go to the data soon and try to figure out what went wrong with the Rwanda survey.

P.S. The enumeration in the blog, of certain errors, shall not be construed to deny or disparage other work done by these researchers.


  1. steven t johnson says:

    Do you mean to imply the Project is trying to assign a single numerical value to something that is not susceptible to such summation?

    Or do you mean to imply that electoral integrity is too simple a metric to use as a proxy for “democratic?”

    Or do you suspect the people are shady?

    • Andrew says:


      The criticisms of the project are: (a) the estimates don’t make sense (for example, Rwanda having a higher score than the U.S.), (b) the methodology (see discussions in earlier posts), (c) data quality (see discussions in earlier posts).

      • There was something similar in the news recently, some kind of ranking of the “best and worst” places to live. If I remember correctly it decided that North Dakota was the best place in the US to live, and that CA was the worst.

        Of course a population ratio of 39 Million / 0.76 Million ~ 50 to 1 in favor of california suggests that maybe their measure isn’t actually much correlated with anything actual people care about.

        It’s kind of sad to see how successful pseudo-science is.

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