What countries do Western Europeans and Americans consider to be similar to their own?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
February 17, 2023, 10:08 AM GMT+0

Americans are much more likely to see themselves as similar to the European nations surveyed than vice versa

A new YouGov Political Research study conducted in Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the USA, asked people to rate how similar they consider their own country to be to between 38 and 47 different countries.

Those nations that most people in each country surveyed feel similar to can be seen below. For Britons, Ireland tops the list, with 73% considering it to be a similar country.* Anglophone nations like Australia (66%), Canada (61%) and New Zealand (61%) come higher up than European neighbours like Germany (56%) and the Netherlands (56%).

Spain tops Italy’s list of similar countries, while Italy ties with Portugal for the most similar country to Spain according to Spaniards (78%).

While there is an elevated affinity in Spain for other Spanish-speaking nations, it is substantially lower than in Britain for other English-speaking nations: 36% of Spanish people believe Argentina to be a similar country and 24% say the same of Mexico (compared to 14% for Portuguese-speaking Brazil).

In France, Belgium is most likely to be listed as a similar country (70%), while for Germany it is Austria (74%), followed by the Netherlands (65%). Despite the majority of the population of Switzerland speaking German, Germans are notably less likely to consider their two nations to be similar, at 54%.

Unsurprisingly, in Denmark and Sweden the other Nordic nations come towards the top of the similarity list. In Sweden the top three list is occupied by neighbours Norway, Denmark, and Finland (82-83%), with more the more far-flung Iceland placing fifth at 65%. For Denmark, while Sweden and Norway take the joint top spot (86%), further afield Finland and Iceland come joint-fifth on 71%.

Perhaps because English is so widespread in Scandinavia, there are also many in Denmark and Sweden who take the view that their countries are akin to Anglophone nations like Canada (55-64%), New Zealand (45-52%) and Australia (44-47%), although notably not the US, at 25-26%.

For the US, only four countries are seen as similar by at least half of Americans. Parent country the UK (66%) and sibling Canada (70%) are seen as alike the US by notable majorities of Americans, with third and fourth-placed Australia and Germany much further behind on 53% and 51% respectively.

Which countries’ perceptions of similarity are most in accordance, and which are most unrequited?

Each of the eight countries the survey was conducted in was also included in the list of countries we asked about. This allows us to compare the results between pairs of participating nations, to see whether there is agreement between two countries on how similar they are to one another, or if one country’s views are different to the other’s.

Unsurprisingly, the greatest level of agreement is between the two Nordic nations we surveyed: 82% of Swedes see the two nations as similar, and 86% of Danes agree.

Sizeable majorities in both Spain and Italy consider their countries to be similar to one another, although this opinion is more widespread in Spain (78%) than it is in Italy (66%).

France forms the basis of a ‘continental core’, with most people in France considering it to be similar to major neighbours Germany (63%), Spain (63%) and Italy (61%), and near-identical numbers in each of those three countries in turn seeing themselves as similar to France (59-63%).

There is no such agreement for Germany compared to Italy and Spain. Fewer than half of Germans see themselves as similar to either country (43% in both cases), while fewer Spaniards and Italians still see their nations as similar (32-34%).

Other comparisons are even more one-sided. In all cases, Americans are more likely to see themselves as similar to the European countries we surveyed than those countries are to see themselves as similar to the USA. For example, despite the ‘special relationship’, while 66% of Americans say the UK and US are similar countries, this falls to 49% among Britons.

While Britons might snub America in this regard, we are in turn snubbed by our major continental neighbours. While 53-56% of Britons consider the UK to be similar to France and Germany, just 35-36% of French and German people feel the same. Likewise, while 42-44% of Britons believe the UK is similar to Spain and Italy, only 24-26% of Spaniards and Italians hold the same view.

A similar story plays out for the Nordics compared to the rest of the continent, with Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain far less likely to see themselves as similar to Denmark and Sweden than vice versa. That said, a majority of Germans do consider their country to be similar (53-58%), but this is still a far cry from the 79% in Denmark who feel similar to Germany and the 73% of Swedes who say the same.

*Our political sample for Great Britain surveys is restricted to England, Scotland and Wales only.

See the full results here

See also: Is Scotland similar to Scandinavian nations?