This paper reports the results of the third IfG-Monocle Soft Power Index, the data for which was collected at the end of 2012. The resulting rankings of the third index were published in December 2012 in Monocle Magazine, but this paper represents the corresponding Institute publication, which discusses the methodological issues of the index in greater depth.

The results of the index provide a comparative snapshot of states’ soft power resources. As such, the rankings are not an absolute measure of states’ influence, but rather their potential for influence. In fact, many states routinely undermine their own soft power with poorly-conceived policies, short-sighted spending decisions, domestic actions, or clumsy messaging.

Ultimately, the aim of the index is to push the debate on soft power forward – not for the sake of arguing who is better than whom, but to encourage critical thinking about the resources that contribute to a nation’s soft power. Because as more countries rush towards the development of soft power strategies, their efforts will be fruitless without a precise understanding of where they derive their soft power, and where it will be effective.

Maintaining a focus on the core components of soft power, this paper discusses both the construction and results of the 2012 IfG-Monocle Soft Power Index. The paper starts with a discussion on the framework of the soft power index and explains the small number of changes made from the previous index published in 2011. The results of the index are reported, highlighting the major movements in the rankings. Finally, the paper looks at the on-going measurement challenge and highlights the future challenges for research on soft power.