Those who think they know Cheryl ... think she should leave

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 05, 2010, 3:13 AM GMT+0

More British women than men think that singer and X-Factor judge Cheryl Cole should leave her footballer husband Ashley as another news story breaks of his reported infidelity, a survey for the Sun has found today. 73% of women think she should go as opposed to only 63% of men – a striking difference between the sexes.

Women knew more about the marriage and were quite likely to follow it, with a third (32%) claiming that they followed the media coverage as opposed to less than a quarter (24%) of men.

The general feeling though, is that Cheryl should cut her losses. When asked whether the Girls Aloud singer should leave her husband, 68% of those asked, including people who admitted to either not following, or not knowing about the marriage, thought that she should go. And of those who regularly follow the media coverage of the reportedly rocky marriage, an overwhelming 92% think she should leave him.

Vote of solidarity?

It is unclear whether this is intended as a vote of solidarity for Cheryl, who is well-known for her reluctance to bad mouth her husband or her marriage, or whether it is in fact unrelated to Cheryl herself and just a general reflection of the nation’s opinion on infidelity. A sizeable 19% of those who do not even know who the couple is think that Cheryl should go – a certain comment on infidelity as a whole.

However, that women are less forgiving of Ashley than men suggests that the personalities and likeability factor of those involved do play a part. Crucially, a recent survey asking whether people forgave John Terry for his extra-marital affair found exactly opposite results: women were more forgiving than men. The reason for this swing in opinion seems clear (as it’s unlikely that women have become uniformly less lenient on cheating husbands in the past two weeks) – women simply report more interest in Cheryl Cole than in John Terry or his wife Toni Poole, and therefore a more stringent opinion on the Newcastle darling’s personal life. That this is not the first report of Ashley’s cheating may also play a part – it seems a single mistake is easier to forgive than a string of affairs.

Generational differences

Young people aged 18 to 24 are even more likely to advocate Cheryl’s leaving of Ashley: 76% think she should go. And again, the extent to which young people report an interest in the couple reflects this viewpoint – 38% say they regularly follow news stories on them, a full 10% more than the national average, and 16% more than those over 55. Correspondingly, far fewer over 55s think that Cheryl should leave.

However, this may not necessarily just be a reflection of the level of interest. The difference between age groups may point to something more potent about the nation’s reaction to infidelity, as young people may be inclined to see cheating in black and white terms, and leave a struggling relationship sooner. Those over 55 are likely to have been married for longer and/or have children, and, by virtue of their increased years, may not see things in such a harsh light. Only seven percent of this older group think Cheryl should stay with Ashley, while 33% admit to not knowing what to do, which could be due either to ambivalence or possibly a genuine lack of consensus as a nation about what to do when someone cheats.

Whether Cheryl is hardened or heartened by this show of revulsion for Ashley’s actions remains to be seen.

Related story - Nearly a quarter have cheated on a partner...but judgement of John Terry remains harsh

For survey details and full results, please click here