Indicators focused on soft power (culture, diplomacy, image)

In recent years, a growing number of soft power indicators have been created, tapping a term first popularised by Joseph Nye in contrast to hard power. While hard power is mainly used for deterrence and coercion, soft power is a power of attraction. Since by nature it is non-coercive, it allows for persuasion and encouraging others to cooperate1. It is associated with culture, values, foreign policy and a country’s image.

The first attempt to measure this type of power (not necessarily using the term soft power) were international polls related to images and mutual attitudes of countries (such as BBC World Service’s Country Ratings Poll or Pew’s Global Attitudes Project2), while the first internationally recognised systematic attempt was made by British Institute for Government with Monocle magazine, which in 2010 created the IfG-Monocle Soft Power Index3. The creators of the indicator considered both statistical data, as well as subjective opinions from polls. Although in the first edition Poland was not ranked among the most influential countries in the world4, in 2014/15, it already ranked 25th among the possible 30, which is a rise of five spots compared to the ranking the previous year5.

Another ranking measuring softpower is The Soft Power 30 created by PR agency Portland Communications6, which while also relying on both objective and subjective sources, changes the methodology and the way of normalising data7. Joseph Nye treats this as the most complete soft power rating so far. In 2015, Poland ranked 24th, with the most influential countries in the world being Great Britain, Germany and the US8. This outcome corresponds with earlier research of the national image ordered by British BBC, where Germany held the first place, Great Britain third and US eighth9. Interestingly, the individual image of both Germany and France, or the countries which in the 20th century launched European integration, is better than the image of the European Union as a whole (fifth place).

Germany in the most liked nation in the world

Source: Own calculations based on GlobeScan data ordered by BBC

Interestingly, there are also rankings measuring phenomena that could be considered as components of soft power. For example, Simon Anholt’s The Good Country Index measures “what each state is doing for the common good of humanity and the planet” . In this ecological and altruistic ranking, where Sweden holds the top spot, Poland ranks 24th.


  1. J. Nye, op. cit.
  2. Pew Research Center.
  3. J. McClory, The New Persuaders, Institute for Government, London 2010.
  4. Ibid.
  5. IfG-Monocle Soft Power Index, 2.11.2016.
  6. Główny autor rankingów Institute for Governance oraz Portland jest ten sam: Jonathan McClory.
  7. J. McClory, The Soft Power 30: A Global Ranking of Soft Power, Portland Communications 2015.
  8. Ibid.
  9. BBC, BBC poll: Germany most popular country in the world, 23.05.2013.