France has overtaken the US and Britain as the world’s top soft power, according to an annual survey examining how much non-military global influence an individual country wields.
Britain headed the list two years ago, but was edged off top spot by the US last year. However, the election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote and the election of Emmanuel Macron appear to have shifted global perceptions.
Soft power, a term first coined by the academic Joseph Nye, is the ability to harness international alliances and shape the preferences of others through a country’s appeal and attraction.
France’s rise from fifth to first is in part attributed to the influence of the centrist Macron, but is also based on the vast French diplomatic network, which is unrivalled in terms of membership of multilateral and international institutions.
The index’s top five countries by order are France, the UK, US, Germany and Canada. Outside the top five, Japan and Switzerland have risen to sixth and seventh respectively. Overall the survey shows a sharp reversal from last year’s narrative of a Europe in soft power decline.
The index, called the Soft Power 30, combines polling in 25 countries and objective digital data to measure a country’s impact. The polling looks at the perceived favourability towards countries.
Issues covered include government, culture, cuisine – including the number of Michelin-starred restaurants – foreign policy, street violence, sporting prowess, digital engagement, perceived capacity for economic innovation, and attractiveness for both tourists and foreign students.
The index, now in its third year, was compiled by the PR firm Portland Communications in conjunction with the University of Southern California school of public diplomacy.
The report found that “despite the looming public negotiations the UK’s objective soft power assets both state and privately owned remain strong”. But it warned the polling showed Britain’s rating was…