New Rankings: The U.S. Is Losing Respect Around the World

American flag at U.S. Capitol

The image of the United States has taken a tumble. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

America’s public image has taken a beating lately — that’s no secret. But even as we experience some internal trials and tribulations, it’s not like America is anywhere even close to finding itself among the world’s most corrupt countries. But it’s not too hard to imagine this strange timeline we’re on eventually taking a swing in that direction. Still, America is in pretty good shape.

It is hard to block out some of the disasters when it comes to foreign policy and public relations over the past year though. The inevitable result is America is falling in stature. And according to some measures, it’s no longer at the top when it comes to the most respected countries in the world — despite some Americans’ belief to the contrary.

The Nation Brands Index, released annually by German market research firm GfK, looks at the “brands” of the world’s major nations and ranks them accordingly. And in 2017, the United States took quite a tumble, though it’s still high up the list, relatively speaking. Overall, the index looks at 50 countries and releases the top 10. The rankings can be taken as a measure of a country’s brand and respectability as seen on the international stage.

In 2017, the U.S. experienced as big a drop as any among the top 10. We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, we start with Sweden, which landed at No. 10 for the second straight year.

10. Sweden

  • Sweden holds steady in the 10th spot for simply being Sweden.

The GfK report starts with Sweden in the 10th spot — the same spot it landed in 2016. That’s not bad, by any means, especially considering there were 50 countries ranked. So Sweden has managed to land in the top echelon of those nations for the second year in a row, which is reason to rejoice. Besides, who wouldn’t want to take a trip to Sweden? In the summer, of course.

Next: A nation “down under”

9. Australia

kangaroo in Australia

Australia recently legalized same-sex marriage. | Ian Waldie/Getty Images

  • It’s hard to hate on Australia, which keeps the country firmly in the top 10.

The nation of Australia is one almost everybody loves. It’s simply hard to hate. And the country has made some big social strides over the past year by legalizing same-sex marriage. As a result, the Nation Brands Index shows public opinion toward Australia has increased marginally from 2016 to 2017, with its score rising 0.76 (using the GfK scale) in international eyes.

Next: It’s all about staying neutral for this country.

8. Switzerland

Geneva, Switzerland

The Swiss stayed in the same spot on the list. | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

  • The kings of neutrality also haven’t made a move since 2016, remaining at No. 8.

Like Australia, it’s hard to hate on Switzerland — and the Swiss have made sure of it. As a result, the Swiss are among the most respected countries in the world with a sterling brand. They’re sitting at the eighth spot, where they were the previous year, and could just as easily end up there the next year. That’s not too bad, considering what’s happening a bit further up our list.

Next: “It’s-a-me, Italy!”

7. Italy

Trevi Fountain

Italy dropped one spot. | Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

  • Italy lost ground, slipping one spot from six to seven in 2017.

While it didn’t take quite as big of a tumble as some of the other countries on this list, Italy did slide in the rankings from 2016 to 2017. Italy came in at seventh place, a drop of one spot from the previous year. Even so, GfK’s research shows international perception of Italy actually did increase even if it lost ground overall.

Next: The country that’s taken a big tumble in the rankings

6. The United States

Statue of Liberty

The U.S. was the year’s biggest loser. | Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images

  • The U.S. took one on the chin, falling from No. 1 in 2016 to sixth in 2017.

When it comes to this list, America is the big loser. And it’s not really a secret as to why. The U.S. topped the list in 2016, but a year of the Trump administration has levied a fairly remarkable amount of damage to America’s reputation and level of respectability. The bad news? It doesn’t appear that’s going to improve anytime soon — especially with all of those damaging tweets.

Next: An Asian country that’s holding strong in international esteem

5. Japan

Visitors explore Sensoji Temple

The country is actually tied for the fourth spot. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Japan is one of GfK’s big winners, climbing a few spots from 2016.

We have slated Japan in the fifth spot for the sake of our list-building, but it actually is tied for the fourth spot. You’ll see what the other country is in a second, but you should also know Japan is increasing its stature and clout on the international stage. In 2016, Japan ranked seventh, but in 2017, it jumped a few heavy hitters (the U.S. being one of them) to grab the fourth spot. Again, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Next: America’s “hat”

4. Canada

Vancouver, Canada

Those friendly Canadians keep the country high on the list. | HannamariaH/iStock/Getty Images

  • You might not think Canada would rank so high, but it’s “Trudeau.”

A dreamy prime minister and a lack of international PR disasters? That’s a recipe for a stellar international image, and it’s Canada’s secret to remaining among the world’s most respected countries. Canada hasn’t budged since 2016, and it tied with Japan for 2017 in fourth place. Also, because its neighbor the U.S. took such a dive, Canada is looking a whole lot better by comparison.

Next: The first of three European countries to finish the list

3. The United Kingdom

Windsor Castle is the family home to British kings and queens for over 1,000 years

Brexit didn’t have a major effect on the United Kingdom’s image. | kruwt/Getty Images

  • Despite “Brexit,” the U.K. remains among the world’s most respected countries.

While the U.S. is dealing with a Trump presidency, the U.K. is still grappling with “Brexit,” which will see it remove itself from the European Union. While the Brexit vote shocked the world — and many Brits — it doesn’t seem to have had nearly as big of an effect on the country’s international image as Trump’s election had for the U.S.

Next: Is France on this list? Oui!

2. France

A young couple looks at a smartphone in front of the Eiffel Tower

France jumped from fifth to second. | Lionel Bonaventure/Getty Images

  • It’s perhaps 2017’s biggest winner on the GfK list.

Few countries (save Japan) made a bigger leap in international esteem than France. In 2016, France ranked fifth overall on GfK’s list, but in 2017, the French have jumped all the way into second place. The election of a new president, Emmanuel Macron, might have had something to do with it. But you can’t discount America’s tumble in respectability as another factor that has helped France climb a few rungs.

Finally: Despite losing (starting?) two world wars, this country’s back on top.

1. Germany


Germany took the United States’ top spot. | John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

  • With the chair still warm, Germany has assumed the throne as the world’s most respected country.

Germany is the country that has taken over for the U.S. at the top of the international rankings. Germany’s brand is now the world’s best. After ranking second in 2016, it has managed to take the top spot in 2017 following the U.S. slide. The country’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has also assumed the role of world leader, in a sense, following Trump’s election. The Germans have been held in high esteem by much of the world for a while now, and as of 2017, are at the top of the heap.

See GfK’s complete report.

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