Freedom House Ratings: United States Profile

Ratings Change:

The United States’ political rights rating declined from 1 to 2 due to growing evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, violations of basic ethical standards by the new administration, and a reduction in government transparency.


The United States is arguably the world’s oldest existing democracy. Its people benefit from a vibrant political system, a strong rule-of-law tradition, robust freedoms of expression and religious belief, and a wide array of other civil liberties. However, in recent years its democratic institutions have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process, bias and dysfunction in the criminal justice system, and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity, and political influence.

Key Developments in 2017:

  • Newly elected president Donald Trump, who took office in January, defied ethical standards observed by his recent predecessors, for instance by retaining and promoting his private business empire while in office, naming his daughter and son-in-law as presidential advisers, and refusing to divulge his tax records.
  • The president repeatedly made major policy decisions with little prior consultation or transparency even within the executive branch—including a January executive order restricting travel to the United States from a group of Muslim-majority countries and a July directive that sought to ban transgender people from serving in the military—prompting legal challenges, revisions, and reversals.
  • Investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election gathered force under the leadership of a special counsel, former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Robert Mueller. Mueller was appointed in May after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, who had been overseeing the probe.