This week David Dinsmore, editor of the Sun newspaper, addressed the subject of Page 3 at the London Press Club and claimed that after conducting 'various polls and investigations done with focus groups' the consensus was 'do not touch it.' He also said that women offered strong support for the feature adding; 'they feel it is intrinsic to the brand and also they don't want to be told, by someone else, what should be in their paper.'
This is a common phenomenon: there are always those within a group facing some form of discrimination who collude in it, don't mind it, don't see it or believe it is 'natural' so Dinsmore's research results are in that sense unremarkable. In broadcasting the fact, Dinsmore casts Page 3 as a personal 'women's issue' and pitches women against women, cleverly taking the focus off the real debate which is should women as a group be represented equally to men in a national newspaper?
Individual opinions, from either gender, are irrelevant to the question of whether it is right or wrong as a society to represent only women as sexual titillation in the press. And just because those opinions come from the paper's readership they should not be given any more weight when that newspaper is the most publicly visible in the country and the effects of Page 3 therefore go way beyond those who actually buy the Sun.
But since Dinsmore started it, let's look at whether women in the wider society like Page 3. A quick assessment of the available polls says not.
In the Sun's own Yougov poll of October 2012 61% of female readers said Page 3 should go as opposed to 17% who thought it should stay. Earlier that year, in February, the poll results for Platform 51, the women's charity were 24% against and 42% for a complete ban.
The only other poll we have which canvasses both male and female views is from Kantar in September this year, which comes out at 48% of women who think the Sun should stop publishing Page 3 as opposed to 8% who think they should keep it.
We can probably assume that the Huffington Post Women poll in June was answered mainly by women though, and the answer we get to the question 'Do you think the Sun should ban Page 3?' in that one looks like this: Yes: 62.64%, No: 33.26%.
If we look at the overall population, men and women, the results are similar. The Hereford Times asked in October 2012 'Should the Sun ban Page 3 girls?' The poll results were Yes: 50%, No: 47%. The Guardian in February this year asked their readers' opinions on whether Page 3 was an 'Innocuous British institution' (28%) or 'So last century' (72%). In April the Leicester Mercury asked 'Should Page 3 be axed?' and got Yes: 53% and No: 47%.
Moving on to May, the Brighton Argus polled its readers and a whopping 75% felt Page 3 was unsuitable or insulting to women and only 13% felt it was harmless fun. Newstalk in August had 92.81% agreeing that the Sun should ditch Page 3 and only 7.19% disagreeing. The Journal in Ireland asked its readers if they welcomed the Irish Sun dropping Page 3, 53% responded Yes, 47% No.
And in September Huffington Post Politics asked the question 'Do you agree with Ed Milliband that Page 3 should be consigned to history?' to which 78.59% answered Yes and 21.41% No.
And finally, the latest poll at ShineonLondon asks 'Do you think the Sun should keep Page 3?' and the result currently stands at No: 87.58% and Yes: 12.42%.
Now any scientist knows that individual studies are meaningless, and that to get a proper result you need to do a meta study of all available data, so let's do that. The result comes out at 65% who think Page 3 should go and 28% who think it should stay.
To be fair on Dinsmore I haven't included the 88% of the (well over half a million) Girl Guides and the 97.5% of the (over 20,000) Girls' Brigade who voted that Page 3 should go, but if I did the result would come out at 24% for Page 3 and 69% against.
I wouldn't normally use public opinion to 'prove' anything, after all a lot of people thought slavery was ok while we were actually doing it. But if Dinsmore is guided by polls and figures, maybe he should take a look at the results for the general public and ask himself whether, as editor of the most popular national daily newspaper, he has a responsibility not just towards his readership but to society as a whole.