Switzerland Is No. 1 in 2022 U.S. News Best Countries Rankings.
Switzerland has reclaimed its No. 1 spot in U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Countries rankings after a one-year hiatus, while the United States and Sweden moved into the top 5 in the seventh edition of the analysis, released on Tuesday.
The central European country supplanted Canada, which moved down to No. 3 in the 2022 rankings. Switzerland also landed at No. 1 in the open for business subranking – which assesses countries by how business-friendly they’re perceived to be – and in the top 5 for quality of life. A country’s performance in those subrankings and eight others contributes to their overall Best Countries ranking. But a strong business climate is where Switzerland arguably shines the most.
“From a financial or industrial point of view, some of the major companies intermediating raw materials – oil, for instance – are based in Switzerland,” says Carlo Bastasin, a nonresident senior fellow in The Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy program, noting the country may benefit in perception from its tradition of neutrality amid international conflict as well.
Switzerland, which has joined the European Union in sanctioning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine but considers its neutrality intact, is one of six European countries to appear in the top 10 of the 2022 rankings. The biggest riser near the top of the list was Sweden, which jumped up four spots from last year.
Among countries in the top 50 of the 2022 rankings, Russia’s year-over-year fall (-12) was among the largest declines in the rankings project’s history.
The Best Countries rankings and analysis from U.S. News are formed in partnership with BAV Group – a unit of the global marketing communications company WPP – and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The project is based on a global survey in which more than 17,000 people associated various countries with specific attributes, ranging from “dynamic” and “a leader” to “cares about human rights” and “committed to social justice.” The survey contained 73 attributes in total and encompassed 85 countries. Four countries never previously included in the rankings – Bangladesh, Cameroon, Paraguay and Zambia – are on this year’s list after meeting benchmark criteria.
For its part, the U.S. moved back into the top 5 this year after jumping from No. 7 to No. 6 in the 2021 rankings. The country is at or near the top of several subranking lists: It’s No. 1 for both power and agility, No. 2 for entrepreneurship and No. 3 for cultural influence.
America’s improving perception abroad is likely linked in part to changing leadership. Other survey data reflects this: A June 2021 report from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center showed that a median 75% of respondents from 12 surveyed nations had confidence in President Joe Biden to do the right thing in global affairs. That number was only 17% for former President Donald Trump during his last year in office.
“There’s been a pretty dramatic change in terms of views of the U.S. with the shift from Trump to Biden,” says Richard Wike, director of global attitudes research at Pew. “Biden is much more popular than Trump was. And I think that overall, there’s just more confidence in his leadership, and more approval of how he approaches world affairs.”
The U.S. wasn’t the only country that rose up in the rankings: France and Denmark, for instance, each moved up two spots from last year and into the top 10. But some of the biggest upward movers were countries further down the list – including several with ties to the ongoing war in Eastern Europe, which appears to have impacted global perceptions of countries involved both directly and indirectly.
Ukraine itself moved up nine spots to No. 62, and three of its regional allies – Lithuania, Poland and Romania – jumped up at least nine spots each as well. Poland, which has been a major safe haven for Ukrainian refugees, rose from No. 43 in 2021 to No. 32 in 2022.
Conversely, Russia – where the survey the rankings are based upon was not fielded this year – and some of its allied countries were big movers down the list, with the country that invaded Ukraine in February 2022 falling 12 spots from 2021 to No. 36. Meanwhile, more than 82% of overall survey respondents agreed that “Russia’s global image is declining” due to the war, and Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – three Russian allies – all dropped at least 10 places each. Belarus plummeted to become the lowest-ranked country in the analysis.
Other issues that were important for Best Countries respondents include the COVID-19 crisis – closing in on three years since it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization – and inflation.
Nearly 80% – up from 75% last year – of those surveyed agreed with the statement, “I approve of my country’s efforts to protect its citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic.” Countries with some of the highest pandemic-response approval percentages included China, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, while countries such as Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland received the highest marks for the broader “health conscious” and “well-developed public health system” attributes.
Respondents also were concerned about inflation and the state of the world economy in general. More than 82% agreed with a statement describing the global economy as “in decline,” while 85% believe “inflation will continue to get worse.”
To learn more about how the 2022 Best Countries rankings were formed, read our methodology.