NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - The United States is the most admired country globally thanks largely to the star power of President Barack Obama and his administration, according to a new poll.
It climbed from seventh place last year, ahead of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan which completed the top five nations in the Nation Brand Index (NBI).
"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 for 2009," said Simon Anholt, the founder of NBI, which measured the global image of 50 countries each year.
He believes that during the previous administration of George W. Bush the United States suffered in the world ranking with its unpopular foreign policies but since Obama was elected, and despite the recent economic turmoil, the country's status has risen globally.
"There is no other explanation," Anholt said in an interview, referring to the impact of Obama.
The global survey, conducted by GFK Roper Public Affairs & Media, involved 20,000 people in 20 rich and developing countries around the globe. They were asked to rate 50 nations in categories such as culture, governance, people, exports, tourism, landscape and education.
Canada took the biggest hit in the latest survey, falling to seventh from fourth place, while China climbed several spots to 22nd, which Anholt believes in due in part to the successful staging of the Olympics.
China has always scored low on human rights and environmental policies but high on cultural heritage.
"It is the first time China's profile has risen," said Anholt, who has been doing the annual poll since 2005.
"Since the Olympics its score for tourism and its people has risen and that has helped to stem its decline," Anholt explained.
Italy maintained the sixth spot in the survey for the second year, while Switzerland came in eight, followed by Australia in 9th place and Spain and Sweden, which tied for 10th place.
At the opposite end of the survey Colombia and Kenya tied for 47th place. Angola was number 49 and Iran came in last at number 50.