US sees decline in 'freedom' score, report points to President Trump's 2016 election victory
According to a Freedom House report released on Monday, 2016 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom -- and America was no exception to the world trend.
The "Freedom in the World" report is an annual global report on political rights and civil liberties that ranks countries and territories with scores based on their "Free," "Partly Free," or "Not Free" status.
Among the countries rated "Free" by the report, there were aggregate score declines in 12 countries -- including Denmark, Spain, Brazil and the United States.
While the United States' individual scores for political rights, civil liberties and freedom rating did not change, the nation's aggregate score declined from 90 to 89. According to the report's aggregate score ranking, the United States is listed as 48th on the chart of most "free" states -- coming in behind the states with the best scores of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Canada. The United States was ranked 37 in the 2016 report.
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Free countries notably accounted for a larger share of those with score declines than at any other time in the past decade, and the report points to America's 2016 presidential election as partial reasoning for the decline.
Trump's presidential campaign "left open questions about the incoming administration's approach to civil liberties and the role of the United States in the world," according to report findings.
Specifically, the report points to Trump's belittling of the European Union and consistent praise of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The report also points to Putin's efforts to influence Italian constitutional referendum and the U.S. presidential election as a "major leap forward" in Putin's undermining the integrity and outcome of democratic processes.
"We see leaders and nations pursuing their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints or regard for the shared benefits of global peace and freedom," said Arch Puddington, one of the report's co-authors. "These trends are accelerating and starting to undo the international order of the past quarter-century, including the general respect for long-established norms for fundamental freedoms and democracy."
The report describes a global community of democracies plagued by "anxiety" and "indecision" over world events like Britain's "Brexit" vote to leave the European Union and U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election victory. Public fears over terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. "stocked public hostility toward Muslim minorities and immigrants," says the report, which deepened "existing social rifts and threatening civil liberties."
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Of the 49 countries designated as "Not Free," Syria has the worst aggregate score -- followed by North Korea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan and Turkmenistan.
A total of 67 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2016, while there were only 36 registered gains.
Turkey saw the highest one-year decline in their aggregate "free" score (-15), while Papau New Guinea saw the highest gain of 5 points.
Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 were rated "Free," 59 "Partly Free," and 49 "Not Free."