The Soft Power 30

Welcome to
The Soft Power 30
A Ranking of Global Soft Power

What is Soft Power?

Power in international relations has traditionally been defined and assessed in easily quantifiable ‘hard’ terms, often understood in the context of military and economic might. Hard power is deployed in the form of coercion: using force, the threat of force, economic sanctions, or inducements of payment.

In contrast to the coercive nature of hard power, soft power describes the use of positive attraction and persuasion to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Soft power shuns the traditional foreign policy tools of carrot and stick, seeking instead to achieve influence by building networks, communicating compelling narratives, establishing international rules, and drawing on the resources that make a country naturally attractive to the world.

In short, “hard power is push; soft power is pull”

Joseph Nye, the originator of the concept, initially set out three primary sources of soft power as he developed the concept. Nye’s three pillars of soft power are: political values, culture, and foreign policy. But within these three categories, the individual sources of soft power are manifold and varied.

Our index builds on those three pillars, using over 75 metrics across six sub-indices of objective data and seven categories of new international polling data.

Engagement

The strength of a country’s diplomatic network and its contribution to global engagement and development

Culture

The global reach and appeal of a nation’s cultural outputs, both pop-culture and high-culture

Government

Commitment to freedom, human rights, and democracy, and the quality of political institutions

Education

The level of human capital in a country, contribution to scholarship, and attractiveness to international students

Digital

A country’s digital infrastructure and its capabilities in digital diplomacy

Enterprise

The attractiveness of a country’s economic model, business friendliness, and capacity for innovation

Polling

We polled over 7,000 PEOPLE in twenty countries covering each region of the globe.

The Top 10 - 2016

# COUNTRY SCORE
1. UNITED STATES 77.96
2. UNITED KINGDOM 75.97
3. GERMANY 72.60
4. CANADA 72.53
5. FRANCE 72.14
6. AUSTRALIA 69.29
7. JAPAN 67.78
8. SWITZERLAND 67.65
9. SWEDEN 66.97
10. NETHERLANDS 64.14

FIND OUT MORE

This index was created by Portland, in association with Facebook

To read our findings in full, download our report.

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The index combines both objective data across six categories (Government, Culture, Education, Global Engagement, Enterprise, and Digital) and international polling, providing a comprehensive framework for the analysis of soft power.

The Soft Power 30 methodology is marked out by three innovative elements that make it the clearest picture to date of global soft power to date:

  1. The index contains a digital component, developed in collaboration with Facebook, working with their data-science team to create and collect new metrics on countries’ digital diplomacy;
  2. The index contains international polling from 25 different countries that provide coverage of every major region of the world;
  3. 76 metrics are normalised into comparable data calculating a single score for each country that allow for an overall ranking of global soft power resources.

The strength of a country’s diplomatic network and its contribution to global engagement and development

The global reach and appeal of a nation’s cultural outputs, both pop-culture and high-culture

Commitment to freedom, human rights, and democracy, and the quality of political institutions

The level of human capital in a country, contribution to scholarship, and attractiveness to international students

A country’s digital infrastructure and its capabilities in digital diplomacy

The attractiveness of a country’s economic model, business friendliness, and capacity for innovation

International Polling

For the second edition of the index we polled 10,500 people in 25 countries covering each region of the globe.

world map

Full Methodology

The index compares the relative strength of countries’ soft power resources; assessing the quality of a country’s political institutions, the extent of their cultural appeal, the strength of their diplomatic network, the global reputation of their higher education system, the attractiveness of their economic model, and a country’s digital engagement with the world. Only where absolutely necessary metrics are controlled for population or GDP. But this is not done often as there is ultimately no such thing as ‘soft power per capita’.

In calculating the index, all data was normalised in order to ensure that each variable was on a single scale. This allows for the comparison of data across a diverse set of metrics that would otherwise be incomparable. Normalisation was calculated according to the min-max method, which converts raw data to a figure between the range of 0 to 1. The formula for normalising data is as follows:

Itqc = (xtqc – minc (xqt0))/(maxc(xqt0) – (minc (xqt0))

However, some variables we also binned into quartiles or deciles where the range of the scale was too large to warrant a standard approach to normalising the data. When a variable was deciled, countries in the bottom 10% were given a score of 10% and countries in the top 10% were given a score of 100%. There were only a few cases where a given metric was so skewed by outliers that a decile or quartile approach to normalisation was deemed appropriate.

Within each sub-index, metrics were given equal weighting in the calculation of the sub-index score. This was done as no justification could be found in the literature for weighting some variables more than others. The calculated score for each sub-index was then combined with the normalised scores of the seven polling categories to form a final score for each country. In calculating the final score, the objective sub-indices were weighted 70% of the final score and a weighted-average score of the polling categories account for the remaining 30%.

For the subjective data, we designed and ran new international polling across 25 countries, covering every region of the world, to give an accurate assessment of favourability towards specific aspects of countries that international audiences would find attractive. It was essentially designed to provide a subjective account of the key soft power assets of countries.

Countries for the index were not selected according to a rigid formula or set criteria, but chosen to give a representative sample of the world’s major powers, including countries from every geo-political region. The selection process included major OECD countries, the emerging BRIC nations and several smaller countries that have carved out a reputation exceeding their size. Data was collected for 60 countries in total, and we have published the top 30 ranking countries.

For more information, download our full report.

Download 2015 report.