This question is referring to the fact that democracy is not just one thing. You do not have a democracy just because, for example, you hold an election every now and then. Instead, there are many things that have to be true about your system before we can say that it is truly a democracy. This assignment is asking you to pick six of those things about democracy (six characteristics of democracy) and thoroughly explain what they mean.
It is likely that your book lists a number of characteristics of a democracy. If it does not, your teacher might have given you a list. The links below have some lists as well. Here is a list of characteristics from my favorite American government text. This is from The Struggle for Democracy, by Greenberg and Page, 2012 Election edition, pages 10-14.
- Popular sovereignty. This means that the people rule. It is broken up into many more characteristics:
- Government leaders are selected in competitive elections. A country can’t just have elections. Instead, they have to be meaningful.
- Elections are free and fair.
- People participate in the political process. This means that people actually have to care and participate in order to have a true democracy.
- High-quality information is available. People have to be able to find out about politics, about their leaders, and about general conditions in their country so they know what they’re voting about.
- Majority rules.
- Government policies reflect the will of the people.
- Government policies must be effective. The things the government does have to actually accomplish the things they are meant to accomplish.
- Political equality. This means that everyone should be equal in the eyes of the government. We should not have a system where some people have more votes than others. We should not have a system that makes policies that help one group of people and hurt another group.
- Political liberty. People should have their rights protected. They should be able to have freedom of speech, the press, and religion.
All of these, according to Greenberg and Page, are characteristics of democracy. For your essay, you should look up the list that your book or teacher provides and describe six characteristics in as much detail as you can. Explain what each characteristic means and give examples of how each can be seen in real life.