UK is World Number 1 in Soft Power; thanks to Culture, Education & Digital.

Surprise felt as UK ranks 1st in Soft Power 30. Despite Brexit uncertainties, UK scores high in Culture, Digital, and Education. 

  • Soft Power 30 is an annual evaluation of soft power and its role in a nation’s success.
  • Ranking is based on 6 ‘Sub Indices’ which include, Culture, Digital and Education
  • UK Ranks first overall and is placed 2nd in Culture Index.

What is soft power?

Power in international relations has quantifiable ‘hard’ terms such as military and economic. Hard power is coercive. Often in the form of the threat of force or economic sanctions. In contrast, soft power, is the use of positive 'attraction and persuasion' to achieve foreign policy objectives. Nations achieve influence by building resources that make them attractive to the world. The phrase 'Soft Power was coined by Professor Jospeh Nye in the 1990 Book Bound To Lead.


What is the Soft Power 30 Index?

Soft Power 30 is an annual evaluation of soft power and it’s role in a nation’s success. Produced by Portland Communications; the index combines objective data across six categories (Government, Culture, Education, Global Engagement, Enterprise, and Digital) and international polling. The resulting report provides a comprehensive analysis of soft power. The data builds what Professor Nye has described as "the clearest picture of global soft power to date”.

“British recording artists produce the greatest number of top 10 selling albums in foreign countries”

The Role of Culture in Soft Power.

UK Ranks 1st overall. And ranks 2nd in Culture. The Culture sub-index includes measures like the annual number of international tourists, the global success of a country’s music industry, and even a nation’s international sporting prowess.

“The UK (ranking) is helped by the global success of the British music industry. British recording artists produce the greatest number of top 10 selling albums in foreign countries, according to IFPI statistics. The UK is also home to three of the top ten most visited art museums in the world.”

British Council offers an excellent analysis of the SP30 Index. The relevance of The Soft Power 30 is discussed in relation to other key research, and highlights potential bias towards western models of attractiveness.

“it could be argued that the UK’s position in the Portland table is a vindication of a certain approach to soft power, manifested by the relative independence from government of its most important soft power institutions (the Portland report picks out the British Council and the BBC World Service for particular praise, as well as independent British art, music, film, fashion, and sport). This is a contrast to other, more state-controlled approaches to soft power.”

The Portland Soft Power 30, now in it's 4th year, highlights the importance of soft power to a nations success. The report, encouragingly for the cultural sector, praises UK's institutions such as BBC, British Council and the wider creative sector. However, the clear area of weakness is the amount of political bandwidth Brexit negotiations consumes in the UK. "The major weakness for the UK is the uncertainty around what will happen with respect to the Brexit process next year. That uncertainty has thrown much of the strengths listed above into jeopardy." 


Further reading on Soft Power.

British Council Insight - The top soft powers of 2018
Portland Communications SP30 Website
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NewsAndy Robertson