They're serious aren't they, surveys? The British Antarctic Survey, the Ordnance Survey, the British Crime Survey, the GP Patient Survey. Surveys, through questions and statistics and science, tell us important and insightful things about our society and the way we live.

And then you have the latest survey from Sheilas' Wheels, the car insurance company, which tells us that 29 per cent of men admitted to being distracted by "women's summer attire" when behind the wheel of a car.

I can't help but think this isn't the best use of a survey. It's more of a transparent attempt to garner column inches. And the British press duly complied - the story was covered straight-faced in the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, which beautifully weaved in Jeremy Clarkson's comments - "You can't physically not look!" - on the same subject.

Sheilas' Wheels's press release offers other delightful facts: only 3 per cent of women admit to being distracted by men's choice of summer clothing; "men are more visually orientated" (says the behavioural psychologist); oh, and "testosterone also plays a part". I think my favourite bit is the comment from the Sheilas' Wheels spokesperson: "We urge all motorists to keep their eyes on the road - regardless of outside distractions - and keep cool behind the wheel."

Why do these sorts of things make me despair? Is it the utter pointlessness of the exercise? Partly. But it's also the purpose behind the pointlessness - the meeting that probably took place where a team of people dreamed up the whole survey idea. "If it's about scantily clad ladies, we'll definitely get in the tabloids." It is a depressing thought.

But to return to the meat of the survey, I'm not sure 29 per cent of people doing anything is particularly interesting. It's just not that many. What happened to a nine-out-of-ten-cats template? Perhaps the Sheilas' Wheels marketing folk were right. The only reason their blessed survey made it into the papers is that it allowed a panting picture editor to ogle photos of girls in bikinis.

Surveys, I'm telling you, were meant for greater things.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 09 August 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The first 100 days

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SRSLY #13: Take Two

On the pop culture podcast this week, we discuss Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, the recent BBC adaptations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie, and reminisce about teen movie Shakespeare retelling She’s the Man.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

Listen to our new episode now:

...or subscribe in iTunes. We’re also on Audioboom, Stitcher, RSS and  SoundCloud – but if you use a podcast app that we’re not appearing in, let us know.

SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s web editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

The podcast is also on Twitter @srslypod if you’d like to @ us with your appreciation. More info and previous episodes on

If you’d like to talk to us about the podcast or make a suggestion for something we should read or cover, you can email srslypod[at]

You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we'd love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

The Links

On Macbeth

Ryan Gilbey’s review of Macbeth.

The trailer for the film.

The details about the 2005 Macbeth from the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold series.


On Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie

Rachel Cooke’s review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Sarah Hughes on Cider with Rosie, and the BBC’s attempt to create “heritage television for the Downton Abbey age”.


On She’s the Man (and other teen movie Shakespeare retellings)

The trailer for She’s the Man.

The 27 best moments from the film.

Bim Adewunmi’s great piece remembering 10 Things I Hate About You.


Next week:

Anna is reading Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.


Your questions:

We loved talking about your recommendations and feedback this week. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we've discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at], or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.



The music featured this week, in order of appearance, is:


Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 



See you next week!

PS If you missed #12, check it out here.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.