Measuring the Legitimacy of States — Bruce Gilley's The Right to Rule

Can the legitimacy of a state be measured? Is it possible to determine how much faith a citizenry has in its government? What’s Denmark doing right and what’s happening in France?

In his new book The Right to Rule: How States Win and Lose Legitimacy, Bruce Gilley measures the legitimacy of countries throughout the world. Gilley argues that by studying the attitudes of citizens, the actions of governments, and the political and institutional conditions in a country, it is possible to measure the legitimacy of a state.

Drawing on factors such as public opinion surveys and media commentary on corruption, the constitution, police, political institutions, etc. along with data on election turnout, popular protest, political violence, the size of the internal police, emigration, military recruitment, etc., Gilley determines a “legitimacy score” for each nation. (see chart below.)

The highest ranking nation is Denmark with a score of 7.62 out of 10. This compares with Russia which scores 2.27. The United States ranks 8th (6.82) and while the top 10 does not offer too many surprises, i. e. liberal Western democracies, it is interesting to see that Azerbaijan is ranked 9th and China ranks 13th while countries like Japan (27th) and France (33rd), which is constantly rocked by protests, violence, and broader social alienation seem to be losing the faith of their citizens.

For more on The Right to Rule, you can also read an interview with Bruce Gilley.

Gilley chart

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