Spotlight on super-injunctions

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
June 03, 2011, 10:01 PM GMT+0

The British public considers senior politicians and backbenchers to be the most legitimate subjects of reports of extra-marital affairs (from our list of numerous professions), our poll has found. Councillors, clergymen and top professional footballers came next on the list.

We gave over 2,000 respondents a list of roles and professions that often involve being in the public eye, and asked whether the media reporting of marital infidelity by someone in said profession would be legitimate or not. We also asked about normal members of the public as a means of comparing the figures.

  • 71% think that it would be legitimate for indiscretions by senior politicians to be reported in the media
  • 65% think the same of backbench politicians
  • 62% believe local councillors’ infidelities could be legitimately reported
  • While 59% feel the same about top professional footballers
  • The public feel that it is less justifiable, although on balance, still legitimate, for the media to report on major senior executives (58%), well-known actors (56%), television presenters (55%) and reality TV stars (51%)

In fact, it seems that, for all of the roles we listed that involve work in the public eye, media reporting of extra-marital affairs was considered largely legitimate, with those working in political jobs, or positions of authority, seen to be the most acceptable targets of media exposure.

  • The only figures on our list that Brits deem to be entitled to a private life are anonymous, ‘normal’ members of the public, with 57% saying that they should be allowed to keep any affairs private, and only 30% saying that reports of transgressions would be justified

The politics of privacy

Recent revelations regarding Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs (pictured)’s alleged affair with former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas have sparked debate on the extent to which well-known figures can expect privacy, and have cast doubt on the validity of ‘super-injunctions’ ‒ gagging orders which prohibit traditional news sources from reporting neither mention of the subject nor references to the injunction itself ‒ in an age where social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook can operate outside the jurisdiction of English courts.

In response, Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that reforms to privacy law may need to be discussed in order to strike a more realistic, updated balance between people’s right to privacy and the media’s right to freedom of speech.