Germany is the 'Most Popular Country in the World'

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Europe's largest economy, Germany, which has been criticized for not doing enough to help struggling euro zone countries, has topped a poll as the world's most popular country.

The survey, carried out for the BBC, polled 26,000 people in 25 countries and asked them to rate 16 countries and the European Union as a whole on whether their influence on the world was mainly positive or negative.

Germany came out on top, with 59 percent of survey participants giving it a positive rating. The country moved up three percentage points from its 2012 position. It displaced Japan, which saw its positive rating fall from 58 percent last year to 51 percent, going from first to fourth place.

The most negatively perceived country was Iran, with only 15 percent of respondents giving it a positive rating. Pakistan and North Korea also received low ratings.

Germany's increased popularity was helped by positive reviews from people in Spain, France, Ghana and Australia. But in debt-laden Greece a majority of people polled gave Germany negative ratings.

(Read More: Even Mighty Germany Looking 'Like a Mid-Table Laggard')

The German government's policy of tackling over indebtedness through harsh austerity measures has proven unpopular in peripheral euro zone economies.

Alastair Newton, political analyst at Japanese investment bank Nomura, said Germany's popularity in the survey is not surprising given the alternative choices.

"There are lots of reasons why Germany is admired," Newton said. "It is a large and important world economy, a world-class manufacturer and has a chancellor who demonstrates genuine leadership. The question also is, where else would it be? It is hardly likely to be the U.S., given their attitude to the Middle East, or China given Western and Japanese concerns on the country," he added.

(Read More: Markets Take 'Glass Half Full' View of Weak European GDP)

But Jennifer McKeown, European economist at research house Capital Economics, said the results of this survey would probably be different if it were euro zone-focused rather than global.

"The big difference here is that this is a worldwide survey," she said. "I'm not sure how relevant this is as it is the perception of Germany within the euro zone that is more important."

"Negative sentiment towards Germany in the peripheral economies is a worry, as in countries like Italy we are seeing people swaying towards parties with less focus on fiscal tightening and more on growth orientated policies," McKeown said. "This is damaging for Germany's proposed vision of the euro zone, where it gets more of a say in how things are run," she added.

(Read More: EU Officials Get 3/10 for Handling of Euro Zone Crisis: Schulz)

Other countries that saw a boost ratings included the U.K., which climbed to No. 3 in the table following its hosting of the 2012 Olympics.

China and India proved less popular, however. After improving for a number of years, their ratings fell sharply this year. China sank to the ninth position, with 42 percent of the respondents giving it a positive rating. India was ranked No. 12, with 35 percent of those polled saying their perception of the country was negative, while 34 percent viewed it positively.

(Read More: Outlook for China's Economy Just Keeps Getting Worse)

Views on the European Union's influence on the rest of the world improved slightly in 2013, after it dropped to its lowest level last year. In 2013, the EU's rating rose one percentage point to 49 percent. However, the perception of the EU did deteriorate markedly in certain countries, including Germany itself, Canada and the U.S. In the U.K. for the first time this year, more Britons rated the EU negatively (47 percent) than positively (42 percent).

The survey was conducted for the BBC by international opinion research consultancy GlobeScan and Washington-based Program on International Policy Attitudes, through face-to-face and telephone interviews with randomly selected people.

The survey has been carried out since 2005, and the most recent one was conducted from January to March 2013.