Liberalism is defined as being open to new opinions and behaviors beyond traditional beliefs and values. It is contrasted with conservativism, which espouses more traditional views on social issues including marriage, abortion, financial and foreign policy, crime, and more. Liberal countries tend to be more open to change and experimentation in most areas of life, including (but not limited to) environmental initiatives, matters of gender and/or sexuality, crime reform (i.e.: education and rehabilitation rather than prison), income inequality, and other societal concerns.
To use the subject of gay marriage as an example, a liberal person or country would be more likely to feel that marriage can be between any two people, regardless of gender. On the other hand, conservative countries or people would be more likely to feel marriage should be restricted to heterosexual unions between a man and a woman.
Top 10 Most Liberal Countries in the World (MoveHub 2022)
Liberalism is not a clearly defined number like GDP or birth rate, but rather a frame of mind that permeates nearly every aspect of a country's culture. Because of this, no single variable can offer a clear picture of how liberal a country is as a whole. For example, if one country has liberal views on gender equality, but another is more sexually liberal and a third is more liberal in terms of environmental policy, which is the most liberal?
Fortunately, many analysts have developed systems in which many metrics are measured, compared, and aggregated into a single, unified score that helps determine the most liberal views and opinions in nations worldwide. However, even these systems can produce very different results from one another--as can be seen in the table below, which compares three such analyses.
In their 2021 ranking of the most liberal countries, Movehub used several different indexes to find the most liberal nations globally. The study sourced data about LGBT and gender equality from the LGBTQ+ Danger Index, Nomadic Boys’ annual ratings, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020; incorporated environmental data from the Environmental Performance Index (EPI); then consulted the Social Progress Index for data on human needs and the 2020 World Happiness Report to measure cultural happiness.