The Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI) survey on which countries are most admired and appreciated around the world has been conducted annually since 2005. This year the US topped the list for the first time, climbing six spots.
According to survey designer Simon Anholt President Obama, whatever his trials at home, has been well-received internationally since his election and changed the image of the US from one that dictates to one that consults. "What’s really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States in 2009,” Mr. Anholt said in a press release on the survey. "The results suggest that the new US administration has been well received abroad and the American electorate’s decision to vote in President Obama has given the United States the status of the world’s most admired country.”
There are no guarantees that greater popularity for the US will lead to global policy victories, with challenges like Iran's nuclear program or forging a successful strategy in Afghanistan requiring far more than a charming presidential smile or a well-inclined global audience. And if the US economy doesn't start reversing massive job losses soon, Obama may find himself more popular abroad than he is at home.
"What’s key for the U.S. and other (leading) nations is to strike while the iron is hot and develop focused policies and communication that draw businesses, financial investors and tourists -- in order to help lift their national economies and their global credibility,” said Xiaoyan Zhao, the director of the NBI study.
The fact that popularity alone is insufficient to win key objectives was brought home by the failure of Obama's last minute sales job on Chicago's 2016 Summer Olympics bid. While he jetted in to appeal for International Olympic Committee votes last week, he couldn't overcome the months of ground-laying and outreach that the winning Brazilian bid team mustered.
Here's the current top five, with last year's ranks in brackets:
1. US (7)
2. France (2)
3. Germany (1)
4. UK (3)
5. Japan (5)