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The American brand now ranks #1 on a list of the top 50 admired countries in the world, in large part because of the election of Barack Obama, according to results from the 2009 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI), which measures the global image of 50 countries with the best overall brands.

The US, which ranked seventh in 2008, experienced the most significant improvement in reputation among all countries on the list, GfK said. The leap in rankings, which were judged by the global public in 20 developed and developing countries, is among the most dramatic ever seen by Simon Anholt, an independent government advisor who studies national reputation and helped develop the index in 2008.

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“Despite recent economic turmoil, the US actually gained significant ground,” Anholt said. “The results suggest that the new US administration has been well received abroad and the American electorate’s decision to vote in President Obama has given the United States the status of the world’s most admired country.”

France, Germany, UK Score Well

Other countries on 2009’s top 10 list are primarily the same ones on 2008’s ranking, but with some shifts in position. France again captured the #2 spot overall, while Germany – 2008’s #1 -? and the UK – 2008’s #3 – fell to #3 and #4, respectively. Japan (#5) and Italy (#6) did not shift rankings from 2008. However, Canada lost ground, slipping from #4? last year to #7 in 2009.

Switzerland, Australia, Spain and Sweden round out the top 10, the research found.

Other major movers in the overall ranking of 50 include several developing countries – such as China, which climbed several spots from last year to #22 in 2009.

US Improvement Shows in Many Areas

Though Obama’s election undoubtedly played a large role in the perception of America, the improvement for the US is not only in the area of Governance, GfK said. “There are improved perceptions for People, Culture and even Tourism of the United States,” noted Xiaoyan Zhao, SVP and director of the NBI study at GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media.

“While most nations’ reputations do not undergo major change from year to year, the US has clearly bucked the trend,” Zhao added. “What’s key for the US and other leading world nations is to strike while the iron is hot and develop focused policies and communication that draw businesses, financial investors and tourists – in order to help lift their national economies and their global credibility.”

Despite the admiration the US receives in terms of its international brand, the United Nations Development Programme recently scored America #13 on a list of countries with the best living standards. Norway, Australia and Iceland commanded the top three spots in that ranking.

About the index: The NBI is based on a global survey in which people from across 20 major developed and developing countries are asked to rate each nation in six categories: Exports, Governance, Culture, People, Tourism and Immigration/Investment. The NBI ranking is based on the average of these six scores. Each year, approximately 20,000 adults ages 18 and up are interviewed online in 20 core panel countries. This year’s NBI study also includes questions on the impact the global economic crisis is having on people’s opinions and perceptions of the nations tracked. Top-line results from this area will be released later this fall.

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