Democratic Electoral Systems Around the World

Research project

The Democratic Electoral Systems Around the World (DESAW) dataset was compiled by Matt Golder, and describes some of the more important electoral institutions used in legislative and presidential elections around the world in a consistent and comparative manner.


Democratic Electoral Systems Around the World (DESAW)

Democratic Electoral Systems Around the World


Democratic Electoral Systems Around the World






199 countries

Last reviewed


Data types and sources

Expert coding based on a number of sources, including national registers and academic research.

Data download

Democratic Electoral Systems Around the World


The dataset covers the electoral institutions used in all of the democratic elections in the world, in total 867 legislative and 294 presidential elections (Golder 2005: 103). It covers a wide range of institutional features including regime type, the electoral formula, the average and median district magnitude, the number of constituencies and upper tier seats, assembly size and more.

Geographical coverage

The dataset covers 199 countries.The dataset consists of three different tables, one organised in country-year format, one where each legislative election is a unit and one where each presidential election is a unit. The country-year file covers more countries, but for some countries data are missing when legislative and presidential elections were held in the same year. The tables with data on legislative and presidential elections cover 125 countries.

Time coverage and updates

The original dataset covers the period from 1946 (or from independence) until 2000. The temporal scope of the original dataset eas expanded in 2013 by including all legislative and presidential elections that took place in democratic states from 2001 through 2011. In addition to expanding the size of the DES dataset, the update included a change in the classification scheme for electoral systems, and more detailed information about all democratic elections since 1946, including the dates for each round of elections as well as the rules used in different electoral tiers.


The dataset is described in Golder (2005) and a comprehensive codebook (Golder 2004), which is available online.

Access conditions and cost

Available free of charge.

Access procedures

Predefined tables. The dataset is available in two versions: one in which each election is the basic unit, and one organised in country-year format. In the former version, data for presidential and legislative elections are organised in separate files; in the latter, data for both types of elections are published in the same file.

Data formats


Comparability and data quality

The aim of the DESAW database was to improve data availability for electoral institutions in order to facilitate empirical research across time periods and regions, in a consistent and comparative manner (Golder 2004). The author thoroughly identifies how the data was coded, and follows leading scholars’ definitions on central concepts such as political regimes.


Golder, Matt. 2004. “Democratic electoral systems around the world, 1946–2000”. Codebook. New York University.

Golder, Matt. 2005. “Democratic electoral systems around the world, 1946–2000.” Electoral Studies 24 (1): 103-121.