British tabloid The Sun hasn’t just been writing the headlines this week, it has been making them, after several other newspapers (including its stablemate The Times, which is also owned by its publisher News UK) and TV news stations began reporting that it was dropping its long-running Page 3 section, which each day features a topless female model.
Both Monday and Tuesday’s edition of the paper featured actresses wearing more clothes than the bare breasts readers have come to expect. Wednesday’s edition featured an advert. Campaigners — such as the vocal campaign group No More Page 3 — claimed victory.
But then on Thursday, The Sun — which had refused to comment on whether it was or wasn’t dropping its 44-year tradition of nudity on Page 3 — proudly boasted that the nipples were back in. An image of a topless “Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth” featured under the headline “Clarifications and Corrections,” referring to all the media outlets who had wrongly reported The Sun had dropped its Page 3 models this week.
The decision, by the biggest-selling UK newspaper to continue with Page 3 models is a controversial one. Critics of the red top’s approach say its Page 3 photos are offensive, sexist and demeaning to women. The Sun always counters these arguments by saying Page 3 is popular amongst its readers.
We decided to put that argument to the test.
We used Usurv, an online polling tool, to run a quick survey of 500 people in the UK on January 22. The company sources survey participants through third party digital publishers, who serve short polls on their websites. Of those 500 participants that responded to our survey, 237 people (47%) said they had bought a print copy of The Sun in the past 12 months.
Of those who had bought The Sun, we asked whether the newspaper should continue to run its Page 3 section. Here’s the result:
As you can see, the majority of readers either want to keep Page 3 (39.6%), or they’re not bothered if it stays or goes (36.7%).
To drill that down a bit, we asked another question: “If The Sun stopped running its Page 3 sections, would you stop buying the paper?”. On that question, 28.6% said yes. 71.3% said no.
When you look at the responses from all 500 participants as to whether The Sun should drop Page 3, the results tell a different story: Don’t care (44.8%), No (30.6%), Yes (24.6%).
So it seems The Sun’s argument about Page 3 holds up: Those who buy the paper either enjoy Page 3 or are not offended by it. And its most vocal critics probably never pick up a copy of the paper anyway.
Of course, this was just a quick online survey of just 500 people (just under 2 million people buy a copy of The Sun every day, according to ABC figures), but it gives a good flavour as to why — despite the outcry — The Sun is keen to stick by Page 3.
For now anyway.
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