04 September 2020 Vol 369, Issue 6508
Special Issue – Democracy in the Balance
Introduction to special issue
In flux and under threat
By Tage Rai, Brad Wible
Science04 Sep 2020 : 1174-1175
Around the world, democracy is losing ground. Polarization and disinformation have rendered liberals and conservatives unable to agree on basic facts. State violence and suppression of citizens’ rights are resurgent. Free and fair elections are being threatened.
In this special issue, we critically examine the state of democracy and how it must adapt to achieve its ideals in the 21st century. We need to meet the challenges and opportunities of living in increasingly multiethnic societies, of fostering democracy in a weakened international environment, of reducing inequality and elevating the political representation of the poor, and of organizing social movements and combating disinformation tactics in the digital age. Advances in technology are making it easier to distort true voter representation through gerrymandering, and political campaigns continue to struggle with reaching voters and persuading them to participate. Worryingly, state violence, which has always been a core feature of the democratic experience for some, is spreading in democratic societies.
Twenty years ago, it seemed inevitable that democracy would reach every corner of the globe. In this moment, we are reminded that we must fight for democracy and work to improve it. A scientific understanding of the social and behavioral phenomena that underlie its operation will help us enhance democracy and, by doing so, improve human lives and societies globally.