COVID-19 and democracy: a scoping review

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragÖversiktsartikelPeer review


The resilience of democracy is tested under exogenous shocks such as crises. The COVID-19 pandemic has recently tested the resilience of democratic institutions and practices around the world.

The purpose of this article is to scope the early research literature that discusses democracy and the COVID-19 pandemic. We review scientific journal articles published during the first two years of the pandemic. We ask three research questions in scoping this body of literature: (1) what are the key topic areas of all published research that associates itself with both democracy and COVID-19, (2) what kinds of conceptual and theoretical contributions has research literature that more specifically discusses democracy under the pandemic produced, and (3) what are the impacts of democracy to the pandemic and vice versa according to empirical research?

The scoping review methodology draws on systematic literature search strategies, computational methods, and manual coding. The systematic Web of Science search produced 586 articles for which we conducted a Correlated Topic Model. After technical and manual screening, we identified 94 journal articles that were manually coded.

The early research on democracy and the COVID-19 pandemic offers a versatile body of scholarship. The topic modeling shows that the scholarship discusses issues of crises, governance, rights, society, epidemiology, politics, electorate, technology, and media. The body of papers with conceptual and theoretical contributions has offered new insights on the difficulties, possibilities, and means to maintain democracy under a pandemic. Empirical research on democracy’s impact on the COVID-19 pandemic and vice versa varies in terms of methodology, geographical scope, and scientific contributions according to the direction of influence studied. Democracy appears to have a significant impact on some aspects of policy responses and epidemiological characteristics of the pandemic. In most parts of the world, the scope, franchise, and authenticity of democracy narrowed down due to the pandemic, albeit in most cases only temporarily.

A significant number of papers show that the pandemic has accentuated democratic backsliding but is unlikely to have undermined established democracies that have proved resilient in face of the pandemic. But empirical research has also made visible some weak signals of antidemocratic tendencies that may become more accentuated in the longer run.
TidskriftBMC Public Health
Antal sidor21
StatusPublicerad - 30 aug. 2023
MoE-publikationstypA2 Granska artikel i en vetenskaplig tidskrift


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