As reported by Der Spiegel:
According to a new BBC World Service survey of international opinion, Germany is held in higher regard than any other large country when it comes to influencing global politics.A more detailed version of the report itself is available here (pdf) which provides information on the world's perceptions of several countries (including Israel, Russia and the US).
According to the survey which was carried out in 34 countries, the global view of Germany's influence is predominantly positive. On average, 56 percent of people questioned had a positive opinion of Germany, compared to only 18 percent who did not.
German Joys provides some analysis:
A few longer-term factors come to mind, in no particular order. First, Germany's deeply integrated into the EU and no longer presents any military threat to anyone. Second, Germany gives a pretty significant amount of foreign aid (this explains a lot of Japan's popularity as well). Third, the German diplomats I know personally tend to be smart, well-trained, and well-disciplined. They are actually diplomatic. They keep a low profile and talk about reconciliation, compromise, mutual interests, peaceful means, etc. Fourth, German leaders are routinely seen on the international stage taking responsibility and sincerely apologizing for their country's past misdeeds. Fifth, Germans are renowned for being the least nationalistic large nation there is. Sixth, aside from the beer-swilling package tourists, Germans abroad generally leave a good impression. Some of the phrases I've heard: "diligent", "polite", "speak good English", "diplomatic", "don't ask awkward questions", "seemed interested in our local culture", "ate the local food."
These are all part of it, sure.
But it may be that one powerful factor has been overlooked.
(More info: German/English.)