Measuring Israeli Democracy (2011): Epistemological, Methodological, and Ethical Dilemmas

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The Israeli Democracy Index is one of the flagship projects of IDI's Guttman Center for Surveys. Published annually, the Index evaluates the quality of Israeli democracy based on objective parameters and public opinion polls. By polling some 1,200 Israelis from all sectors of society each year, it sketches an up-to-date, theoretical, and practical portrait of opinions regarding the preferred form of government, the functioning of the political system, the behavior and performance of elected officials, and key democratic values. In the following paper, which was prepared for presentation at a conference of the WZB Social Science Research Center in Berlin, IDI Senior Fellow Prof. Tamar Hermann, who heads the Guttman Center for Surveys, shares the dilemmas faced by the research team in conducting the annual project in general and in preparing The Israeli Democracy Index 2011 in particular.


This paper aims at presenting, from a reflective perspective, the various dilemmas facing the team conducting the Israeli Democracy Index annual research project in general and its 2011 edition in particular. After dealing generally with the issue of measuring democracy and contextualizing this project in the "universe" of similar measurements/indices/barometers, the article will focus on the epistemological, methodological, and ethical dilemmas to be dealt with when assessing—by surveying public opinion—the democratic qualities of the Israeli regime, which are closely linked, it will be maintained here, to its unique political system and complex political situation. This will be done with a number of illustrations and through references to findings of the latest, as well as previous, Israeli Democracy annual reports.