Best Countries in the World 2018: U.S. Falls Again One Year After Trump Takes Office

President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on January 23. Researchers behind an annual survey regarding global perceptions of 80 countries largely blamed Trump for the U.S.'s decline two years in a row. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump, the man who promised to "Make America Great Again," this week is to travel to what a recent ranking of 80 leading nations said is the best country in the world.

Meanwhile, his country suffered a ranking decline for a second consecutive year, falling to eighth from seventh in an annual list of countries published Monday by U.S. News World & Report. The data was based on a wide-ranging international survey conducted late last year regarding public perceptions of 65 attributes and nine subcategories: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power and Quality of Life.

As Trump prepared to travel to a key economic forum hosted by Switzerland, twice ranked the top country, researchers who helped prepare the survey criticized the president shortly after he surpassed his one-year mark in office.

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"Whether evaluated on perceptions of government, business, or citizenship, the Trump effect thus far has been overwhelmingly negative," marketing professor David Reibstein and Ph.D. student Suneal Bedi of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania wrote Tuesday in a report accompanying the data.

"The next few years will truly be a test of whether the Trump administration can get its act together and turn around the reputation of the United States," it added.

President Donald Trump speaks after signing Section 201 actions to impose tariffs from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on January 23, 2018. Researchers behind an annual survey regarding global perceptions of 80 countries largely blamed Trump for the U.S.'s decline two years in a row. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S., which ranked fourth overall in the 2016 survey conducted during the Obama administration, fell to 35th most "open for business" months after Trump's election in 2017 from 23rd that year, and to 43rd just over a year into Trump's first term. Researchers cited factors such as corruption, lack of transparency and inefficiency in passing reforms among reasons for this decline.

The accompanying report further analyzed the decline. Between 2016 and 2017, gender equality fell to 14th from 9th, but it plateaued this year as the #MeToo movement proved to be a powerhouse capable of displacing major figures across industries. (Of course, it has failed to affect Trump, who has denied multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.) The U.S. standing on political equality, however, continued to decrease—from seventh in 2016 to 13th in 2017 and to 16th in the latest reportfollowing a year of particularly tumultuous racial tensions in the U.S.

Another factor is a travel ban affecting six majority-Muslim countries and two others, North Korea and Venezuela. Perceptions that the ban was singling out individuals of the Islamic faith, crackdowns on illegal immigration and rhetoric targeting potential travelers and immigrants to the U.S. may have resulted in the sharpest decline measured, as the researchers pointed out: From a high score of 20th in 2016, the U.S. "open travel policies" slipped to 33rd last year and plunged to 51st this year.

In the eyes of the world, the U.S. has reportedly suffered in trustworthiness and political stability for the past two years, falling from 17th to 23rd to 25th in the former, and from 11th to 21st to 23rd in the latter. After Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords last June, protection for the environment also dipped, from 24th in 2017 to 31st in the latest results.

Trump’s original underwent a number of changes in an attempt to get it passed, according to this graphic dated December 5, 2017. Reuters

"Despite being the foremost global power, the U.S. still faces domestic challenges, including racial tensions, income inequality and an increasingly polarized electorate. All of these fissures have been on display during Trump's presidency, as even his own party has been divided on some of the nation's most important legislation," the report's entry on the U.S. read.

"While national security is a concern, so too is the debt incurred from wars and expenditures on an aging population. The U.S. leads the developed world in deaths due to firearms," it added.

The U.S. also has led in terms of military power three years in a row, and has improved in certain categories in the past year. While the "Quality of Life" rating sank from 14th to 18th between 2016 and 2017, it jumped up to 17th this year. The "Adventure" subcategory, described as "friendly, fun, pleasant climate, scenic, sexy" dropped from 27th to 35th between the first two surveys, but climbed to 33rd for 2018.

The ranking puts the top 10 countries in this order: Switzerland, Canada, Germany, the U.K., Japan, Sweden, Australia, the U.S., France and the Netherlands.