US slips in list of world's best countries

It falls three spots to No. 7 in survey after Trump won election

The United States has slipped in the eyes of the world, judging by the results of a global survey of over 21,000 "influencers, business professionals and citizens" published by the US News & World Report.

In the 2017 Best Countries Report, the US dropped from fourth place last year - the first year the survey was conducted - to seventh this year.

Conducted jointly by US News & World Report, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Y&R's BAV Consulting, the survey evaluated 80 countries - 20 more than last year - across a range of qualitative criteria, including economic influence, citizenship and quality of life.

As many as 75 per cent of respondents said last year's general election - notoriously rancorous which left the country deeply divided - made them think less of the US.

Switzerland - which was not ranked in 2016 - topped the list of "best countries" this year.

  • 21,000 elites and decision-makers polled

  • A total of 21,372 individuals from 36 countries were surveyed in the 2017 Best Countries report released last week by US News & World Report, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Y&R's BAV Consulting.

    The respondents were classified as "informed elites" and "business decision-makers."

    They were asked to rate 80 countries - up from 60 in the first such survey last year - on 65 qualitative attributes. Each respondent's choices got equal weightage.

    If a respondent was not familiar with a country, it was removed from his or her list.

    Attributes were grouped into nine sub-rankings: adventure, citizenship, cultural influence, entrepreneurship, heritage, movers, open for business, power, and quality of life.

    Under "adventure", for example, were attributes like friendly, fun, pleasant climate, scenic, sexy.

    "Citizenship" included attributes like concern for human rights, the environment, gender equality, progressive values, religious freedom, property rights, trust and well-distributed political power. 

    "Quality of life" included a good job market, affordability, economic and political stability, safe and family friendly, well-developed public education and public health.

    The 65 attributes were seen as "relevant to the success of a modern nation".

    Nirmal Ghosh

Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan - which climbed two notches - rounded off the list of the top five, with Sweden at No. 6, followed by the US (No. 7) and Australia (No. 8). Singapore was No. 15, just a notch behind New Zealand, at No. 14.

Political stability and well-distributed political power as attributes were the single two largest declines in the US' overall image. America "being a place I'd like to live in" scored 50th out of 65.

The US News & World Report last Tuesday also said that it was worrying that some "longstanding societal values" such as equality, inclusivity and compassion were retreating in the US.

The US was seen as more "volatile and hostile" and a country where "fears of authoritarianism threaten both free markets and basic individual freedoms".

But the US was still ranked the most powerful country in the world and was in third place in cultural influence and entrepreneurship.

The US was not the only one to drop in overall rankings in the survey. Last year's best overall country, Germany, slipped to No. 4, with dips in three categories: open for business, citizenship and quality of life. Analysts attributed the rise in unfavourable sentiment to terrorist attacks, and some tension over Germany's admission of immigrants.

Overall, more than 50 per cent of survey respondents thought the world had become worse in the past year; more than 60 per cent thought there was a global leadership crisis.

Many analysts were not surprised by the results.

In a video analysing the survey, Mr John Gerzema, chairman of Y&R's BAV Consulting, said: "People around the world were reacting to the fact that there was such systemic change. We see that when we look at the reactions: There was this flight towards stability, for neutrality."

The "reputational impact" of the US was a worry, Mr Rafael Frankel, a vice-president of Washington DC-based consultancy Bower Group Asia, told The Sunday Times.

"There's no doubt that we will lose money on tourism," Mr Frankel said. "The whole aura of what we project to the world has gone south. We don't project a welcoming aura any more. And the tone is set right from the top."

An early indication of that came last month, according to digital travel agency Hopper, which analysed global flight searches.

It said that in the two weeks after President Donald Trump's inauguration, global interest in flying to the US declined 17 per cent from the three weeks before - a far steeper decline than the 1.8 per cent for the same period last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline 'US slips in list of world's best countries'. Print Edition | Subscribe