While Americans’ perception of their country has risen, global perception of the United States saw a substantial decline over the past year, causing the U.S. to drop from first to sixth place in Anholt-GfK’s annual Nation Brands Index (NBI).
Germany moved from second to first place; France rose to second place from fifth; and the U.K., which lost some ground after the Brexit vote, improved its score and maintained its third-place ranking.
Japan saw a large (2.12-point) jump in its score and made the top 10 ranking for the first time since 2011, tying with Canada for fourth place. Italy rose to sixth place, from seventh.
Switzerland, Austria and Sweden maintained their eighth, ninth and tenth places, respectively.
Americans’ Self Perception Contrasts to World’s
Among the 50 countries studied, only the United States saw its overall NBI score drop this year.
The U.S. still ranks among the top five nations in three of NBI’s six categories: It ranks second in “culture,” second in “exports,” and fifth in “immigration investment.”
But it lags in the “people” and “tourism” categories—respectively defined as “the population’s reputation for competence, friendliness and other qualities, such as tolerance” and “the level of interest in visiting a country and the draw of natural and man-made tourist attractions.”
Most significantly, the U.S.’s “governance” ranking fell from 19th to 23rd — “a notably poor score for one of the world’s leading countries,” according to the researchers.
The drop in other countries’ perception of U.S. governance “suggests that we are witnessing a ‘Trump effect’ following President Trump’s focused political message of ‘America First,’” said Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor to governments and former vice chair of the U.K.’s Public Diplomacy Board, who developed the NBI study in 2005.
“However, Americans’ assessment of their own country is notably more positive this year than last,” Anholt reports.
A similar fall in global perception of the U.S. was seen following the re-election of George W. Bush, when the U.S. fell to seventh place. However, to date, the U.S. hasn’t dropped out of first place in these rankings for more than a year. “It will be interesting to see whether this holds true in the 2018 ranking,” Anholt noted.
Germany: Governance, People, Culture Gains
Germany “enjoys a very balanced image across all six categories of the index,” according to the study.
Germany saw notable improvements in global perception scores for culture, governance and people (each up more than a percentage point, which is considered a large gain). It ranks among the top five countries in all but the tourism category, where it’s gaining ground, according to the report.
Germany’s overall score increases are boosted by significantly improved perceptions among Egyptians, Russians, Chinese and Italians. Only Americans rank Germany outside of the top 10 overall nation brands, ranking it eleventh.
U.K. Regains Ground
After a large decline in global perception in 2016, following the Brexit vote, the U.K.’s overall index score is nearly back to its 2015 level, with improvement across all six categories. This puts it in the top five countries for exports, culture, tourism and Immigration investment.
France, Japan See Positive Leaps
France and Japan leapt up in the rankings because of score gains, combined with the drop in the U.S. ranking.
This is the first year that France has risen to second place. The country saw gains across all six categories, and particularly marked improvement in its governance and immigration investment scores.
It ranks first among all 50 countries in global perception of its culture, second in tourism, and fifth in exports.
2017 has also been a banner year for Japan. It now stands in fourth place, equal with Canada, Japan achieved its highest overall score in nearly a decade. Its global perception score for exports is the highest of all countries studied, and it had above-average gains in immigration investment, culture and governance.
For the study, GfK conducted 20,185 online interviews with adults
(age 18 or over) in 20 panel countries from July 7-25 this year. Data were weighted to reflect key demographic characteristics of the 2017 online population in each country, including age, gender and
education. Additionally, race/ethnicity was used for sample balancing in the U.S., U.K., South Africa, India and Brazil. More information is available online.
Score change 2016 vs. 2017
Source: Anholt-GfK Nation Brands IndexSM (NBISM) study. NBISM score changes: minor change: +/-0.26-0.50; medium: +/-0.51-1.00; large: > +/-1.00