The Democracy Barometer is a new index of democracy. It aims to overcome the conceptual and methodological shortcomings of existing measures, in order to measure the subtle differences in the quality of established democracies.

Most of the previous indices of democracy have a minimalist conceptual basis which is useful to distinguish democratic from non-democratic regimes. However, 'democracy' is a complex phenomenon and a minimalist measurement cannot do justice to it. The Democracy Barometer is therefore based on a middle range concept of democracy, embracing liberal as well as participatory ideas of democracy, which illuminate the phenomenon from different perspectives).

It consists of a stepwise theoretical deduction of fundamental elements of democracy. The starting point is the premise that a democratic system tries to establish a good balance between the normative, interdependent values of freedom and equality and that this requires control. In order to guarantee these three fundamental principles and thus the quality of democracy, nine democratic functions need to be fulfilled. Every function is further disaggregated into two components each, which finally, are measured by several sub-components and indicators (see also codebook). The choice of indicators and scales as well as the rules of aggregation rely on theoretical considerations and empirical tests (also see methodology).