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US dropped to bottom half of ‘free’ nations in new rankings from Freedom House

An American flag hangs at half mast. (Wikimedia/Released)
March 03, 2021

According to a Freedom House report released Wednesday, freedom decreased in the U.S. and around the world in 2020, with the U.S. now ranking at the bottom half of nations described as “free.”

U.S.-based think tank Freedom House’s 2021 Freedom In the World report ranked countries based on combined scores of a 40-point scale for political rights and a 60-point scale for civil liberties. The U.S. scored 83 out of 100 possible points, with a political rights scale of 32 and a civil liberties scale of 51, a three-point decline from the previous year.

Out of 195 countries and 15 territories surveyed, 83 earned “free rankings” with 59 of those having higher freedom scores than the U.S. The U.S. tied four other countries with scores of 83 and 20 countries.

Overall the U.S. dropped three points since the 2020 Freedom House ranking.

In an accompanying report, Freedom House authors Sarah Repucci and Amy Slipowitz attributed the U.S. decline in part to President Donald Trump. The authors wrote, “After four years of condoning and indeed pardoning official malfeasance, ducking accountability for his own transgressions, and encouraging racist and right-wing extremists, the outgoing president openly strove to illegally overturn his loss at the polls, culminating in his incitement of an armed mob to disrupt Congress’s certification of the results.”

Trump was impeached for his alleged incitement at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, though his impeachment defense attorneys noted Trump made repeated calls for his supporters to act peacefully and encourage lawmakers to raise lawful objections to the certification of the 2020 electoral results.

The Freedom House authors further attributed declines in U.S. freedom rankings to “politically distorted health recommendations, partisan infighting, shockingly high and racially disparate coronavirus death rates, and police violence against protesters advocating for racial justice over the summer.”

The U.S. decline in the Freedom House score began before Trump took office, however. In the last decade, the U.S. fell 11 points.

“This decline, as you’ll see, began before President Trump took office, [and]
it’s not going to be reversed anytime soon just because we have a new
administration,” Abramowitz said, in comments reported by Washington Times. “The U.S. has very serious work to do as a country to strengthen democracy here at home and to really establish ourselves as a global champion of freedom.”

Overall, Freedom House scores declined in 2020. Less than 20 percent of the world population now live in a “free” country, according to Freedom House.

In 2020, India fell from “free” status to a “partly free” status, with a score of 67.

“With India’s decline to Partly Free, less than 20 percent of the world’s population now lives in a Free country,” the Freedome House authors wrote. According to Freedom House, that is the lowest porportion of people living in a free country since 1995.

Freedom House also noted that while global freedom declined, China expanded its influence around the world. The authors noted “Beijing ramped up its global disinformation and censorship campaign” to counter the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, and at the same time “gained clout in multilateral institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council.”