New Zealand is Britons’ favourite country

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
October 26, 2020, 6:04 PM UTC

North Korea languishes at the bottom of the list

With a new update to YouGov Ratings showing British attitudes to 195 different countries, we’ve played with the new data to see which countries are Britons’ most and least favourite, and how people’s lifestyle and politics affects their opinion.

The best countries according to Britons

Britons’ favourite country is not, in fact, their own – although the Union Jack can still be found in its flag. The honour of Britain’s favourite country actually goes to New Zealand, with 80% of us saying we have a positive opinion of the nation.

Coming in second are other Commonwealth countries Canada (also on 80%) and Australia (79%), followed by the UK itself, on 78%. One in eight Brits (13%) take a neutral view of their own country, with 8% actively disliking it.

The rest of the top ten are all European countries: Spain (72%), Italy (69%), Norway (69%), Sweden (69%), the Netherlands (69%), and Denmark (68%).

Despite the ‘special relationship’, the USA ranks 34th, with only 44% of Brits having a positive view of the country, putting it behind countries like Brazil, Singapore, Fiji and Croatia.

So what do the countries that make up Britons’ top ten have in common? We looked at the top five things fans of each country had to say about them. The most common compliment is “the people are great”, which made the list in seven of the countries. The country being “clean” and “cultural” featured six times, and “environmentally friendly” appeared five times.

The worst countries according to Britons

The list of the top ten most disliked countries will be familiar to anyone with an awareness of authoritarian regimes, human rights abuses and civil war. North Korea tops the list, with 63% of Brits saying they have a negative view of perhaps the world’s most repressive state.

Following in second place is war-torn Syria (61%), with Iraq in third (56%) and Iran fourth (54%).

The list is rounded out by Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Russia, China and Somalia.

The countries Britons are most ambivalent about

Topping the list of nations Britons are most likely to shrug their shoulders about is the West African country of Guinea, which 66% of Britons have a neutral opinion of.

The top 10 list is entirely composed of countries from Africa (Guinea and Tanzania), South America (Paraguay, Ecuador, El Salvador, Bolivia, Uruguay) and the eastern reaches of Europe (Lithuania, Moldova and Belarus). At least six in ten Britons say ‘meh’ when asked their thoughts on these lands.

Which countries have Britons never heard of?

Many far-flung countries remain relatively unknown to the British public.

Topping the list is Nauru, which 58% of Britons have never heard of. Expecting Britons to have heard of Nauru is slightly unfair, however, given it is a tiny island nation in the Pacific and home to just 13,000 people. All the countries that top this list are similarly small.

If instead we look only at countries home to a million people or more then Lesotho is the nation Britons are least likely to be familiar with. More than four in ten (44%) say they have never heard of the landlocked south African nation – itself entirely surrounded by neighbouring South Africa.

It is a commonly held view that Americans are terrible at geography, and if we compare the results of the British survey with the US equivalent, we can see that Britons are more likely to have heard of 176 of the 195 countries we asked about.

Which countries most divide Remain and Leave voters?

The Brexit divide reveals clear differences of opinion on Britain’s neighbours in the world.

Of the top 5 countries that Remain voters like more than Leave voters, four are European. The gap is widest when it comes to Germany, which 66% of Remain voters have a positive view of compared to only 40% of Leave voters. Remain voters are also much more likely to have a high opinion of France, Belgium, Ireland and also Costa Rica.

Leave voters, for their part, are only noticeably more likely to prefer two countries when compared to Remain voters: the USA (52% vs 36%) and the UK (85% vs 71%). The next largest gap is a six-point preference for Israel (28% vs 22%). By contrast, there are 31 countries that Remain voters like more than Leave voters by double-digit rates.

Which countries do passionate travellers have the highest opinions of?

Using YouGov Profiles we looked at the views of people who say they are passionate about travelling, and how these differ from people who are not.

The Maldives is the country travel lovers are most likely to think highly of (59%) when compared to the rest of the population (33%).

Other top countries that passionate travellers prefer include Mexico, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica and Thailand.

Explore the data in YouGov Ratings

For even more in-depth data, YouGov DestinationIndex tracks public perception of 120+ tourist destinations across 25 markets. Find out more here.