Closer analysis of the data shows that much of the boost comes from improved international opinion of the American people themselves. After the re-election of George W. Bush to a second term, I began to record falling scores not just for U.S. foreign policy but also for U.S. people, culture, products, and even -- by a delightfully illogical extension -- the U.S. landscape. Now, the world appears to have absolved Americans of any perceived sin, having elected the "right" president. Even the country's rolling hills and city skylines, it seems, are fully restored to their former grandeur in the eyes of the world.
Redemption of the brand means more than just the warm and fuzzy feeling one gets when thinking about the United States. By combining the NBI data with a range of economic and industrial statistics, it is possible to hazard a brand valuation for a country, much as corporations value their brands. Working with Brand Finance, a consultancy that specializes in valuing the intangible assets of corporations, we estimate that the value of "Brand America" has jumped from $9.7 trillion in 2008 to $11.8 trillion today. Even more remarkably, that increase comes even as the global recession has seen U.S. GDP growth decline 2.3 percentage points over the last year. That number is value that Obama has added to the U.S. economy simply by taking office and making the right speeches.
So to those who say Obama has achieved little, my research suggests otherwise. His mere presence has begun to restore the United States to a position of respect and credibility -- and consequently, of influence -- that no amount of political, economic, or military might could muster. And it is an absolutely necessary achievement if Washington is to wield any moral authority in the world. In at least one of his responsibilities as head of state, the sacred responsibility of upholding the good name of his country, Obama has had a pretty good first year.