Canada has earned the highest reputation ranking in Reputation Institute's 2011 Country RepTrak, an annual study measuring public perceptions of 50 countries around the world. The study measures the overall trust, esteem, admiration and good feelings the public holds towards these countries, as well as their perceptions across 16 different attributes, including a good quality of life, a safe place to live and a strong attention to their environment.

"The study shows that a strong country reputation requires a solid performance across three different areas: having an advanced economy, an appealing environment and an effective government," says Nicolas Georges Trad, executive partner of Reputation Institute.

Canada was followed by Sweden, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand, all showing stability in their high scores throughout the three years of this annual study. Their strong reputations are attributed to their steady democracies, high GDP per capita, focus on active lifestyles, well developed political systems and perceived neutrality to international political upheavals.

The lowest ranked countries in the 50-country study were Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, while the United States and China were ranked in the middle and lower tiers.

One of the most interesting findings of this year's study was the significant decrease in the average score of all countries measured, suggesting a growing cynicism people have toward countries, possibly due to recent developments in the world economy and a general loss of faith in politics worldwide.

The effect of economics and politics on countries' reputation also showed in some of the big movements from 2009 and 2011: Spain, Ireland and Greece dropped, while Germany climbed 5 spots to number 11.

Reputation Institute also found a very strong correlation between a country's reputation and people's willingness to visit there, buy its exported products and services, invest there, study there or even live and work there.

"Our approach provides a strategic tool that enables countries to make informed decisions about how to spend their brand and reputation building budgets," says Kasper Nielsen, executive partner of Reputation Institute. "When you consider that a 10 percent increase in your country's reputation leads to an 11 percent rise in your tourism receipts, and a 2 percent increase in your FDI, this is something both countries and companies might want to take note of."