The fourth edition of the annual Soft Power 30 Index is launched today by Portland, the strategic communications consultancy, in partnership with the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy.
This year’s results saw Hungary as one of the surprising victors, climbing three places to 25th, and being the biggest mover on this year’s list.
Despite regular negative international coverage which has dogged Hungary under the Presidency of Viktor Orbán, they ranked well in the Digital sub-index, a definitive sign that the government is making effective use of its digital diplomacy tools and that Hungarian citizens are increasingly interconnected in the digital environment.
Despite this, the country continues to rank poorly in Education (30th), Culture (30th) and Government (26th) sub-indices, highlighting wider perception problems of Hungary despite its rich historical past, easy accessibility via several low-cost airlines and the global appeal of its capital Budapest.
Topping the index this year is the United Kingdom, which narrowly beat France to regain the top spot in the 2018 Soft Power 30 rankings – a position it last held in 2015 – after holding second place for two consecutive years.
The political and economic turmoil brought on by Brexit has yet to negatively impact the UK’s soft power assets, which are underpinned by world-class universities, the global reach of British culture, and a thriving tech sector.
The UK’s move up the rankings will provide some reassurance that despite the uncertainty over the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU – and its wider global role post Brexit – Britain maintains significant soft power resources. All of these will be needed if “Global Britain” is to be more than a slogan.
After an impressive leap from fifth to first place in 2017, France slips one place to second in the 2018 Soft Power 30 index, with only a marginally lower score than the UK. Last year, the election of President Emmanuel Macron significantly boosted France’s ranking and he continues to sustain France’s image as a re-energized and globally engaged world power.
Jonathan McClory, Partner at Portland and author of the report said:
“Soft power is a critical foreign policy tool for our age of interdependence and global challenges. It will be of utmost importance for the UK to leverage its well-balanced set of strongpoints in the run-up to Brexit and immediately after. Most European countries have either remained in the same position or have gone up in the rankings which is a strong signal that Europe continues to be a bedrock of global soft power, even though it might be battling internal divisions. The US’ fall down the rankings illustrates how the Trump administration’s protectionist and nationalist approach to foreign policy is detrimental to American soft power. Asia is clearly on the rise, with Japan cracking the top five for the first time, showcasing great potential for the future.”
Joseph Nye, Harvard professor, originator of the term “soft power,” and author of the 2015 Soft Power 30 foreword said:
“In combining both objective metrics and international polling data, The Soft Power 30 provides a good picture of how changes in policies, as well as wider emerging global trends are affecting the relative distribution of soft power and the comparative ability of countries to attract others. The results of this year’s Soft Power 30 study show a further erosion of American soft power. Clearly, the Trump administration’s ‘America First’ approach to foreign policy comes at a cost to US global influence.”
Jay Wang, Director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD) and an Associate Professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism said:
“We are delighted to continue our collaboration on this year’s Soft Power 30 report. Public diplomacy is more important than ever given the current challenges and opportunities in global affairs. Persuading people through attraction rather than force and coercion makes both moral and economic sense. If we are to maximize the benefits of soft power, we must first fully conceptualize and measure a nation’s soft power presence and influence. Soft Power 30 represents such an important effort.”
This year’s top 30 ranking is below:
Source: Portland Communications