The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight


October 6, 2009

The National Brands Index is out with its 2009 survey results and the United States has taken the top spot. It “soared” from seventh place in last year’s survey to number one. How can this be?

Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that you won’t read this in The Weekly Standard, from the National Brands Index press release:

“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,” explains Simon Anholt, NBI founder and an independent advisor to over a dozen national governments around the world. “Despite recent economic turmoil, the U.S. actually gained significant ground. The results suggest that the new U.S. 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.”

OK,OK… we all knew Obama was going to rescue America’s global reputation. Great, but I’m still a bit of a skeptic:

First, for the data wonks out there, here’s the only mention of methodology I could find anywhere about the survey and its only this simple description from the press release:

Conducted annually in partnership between independent advisor Simon Anholt and GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media beginning in 2008, the Nation Brands IndexSM measures the image of 50 countries with respect to Exports, Governance, Culture, People, Tourism and Immigration/Investment. Each year, approximately 20,000 adults ages 18 and up are interviewed online in 20 core panel countries.

I’m intrigued by the use of online polling, but I’m not buying the whole top “brand” result until I see some evidence and methods which apparently are not released for proprietary reasons. Oh well….

Second, the whole thing of reputations in IR tend to be over-rated. I still like Jon Mercer’s work on the topic. Dan posted months ago on the whole values vs. policy angle on anti-Americanism and the broader trends on America’s current image seem to track with an expectation that Obama will change American policies.

Finally, Canada dropped to seventh? What’s up with that?

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.