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Spinning It: new research explores British attitudes to straight talking

23rd July 2010

Britain has a reputation as a nation with a stiff upper lip, but we’re not always straight as a die when it comes to telling the truth. While the majority of us (73 per cent) consider ourselves to be straight-talkers, the likelihood of being told a little white lie varies from region to region.

You are least likely to get a straight answer out of a Londoner, as ‘cockney sparrows’ are far more likely to twisting the truth to avoid awkward scenes than plain-speaking northerners, according to Direct Line’s Telling It How It Is study.

Half (47 per cent) of those in the Capital confess to smooth-talking their way out of sticky situations, such as a showdown with the boss or a dispute with a partner.

The findings are also a blow for the nation’s most celebrated straight-talkers, with Midlanders beating fabled Yorkshiremen to be crowned Britain’s bluntest speakers.

The research found that a whopping 79 per cent of those living in the West Midlands consider themselves to be straight-talkers, compared to just 73 per cent of Yorkshiremen. Despite their reputation for telling it how it is, nearly half (41 per cent) of Yorkshiremen agree that a little white lie doesn’t hurt once in a while.

In spite of the recent rash of celebrity husbands such as Tiger Woods, Ronan Keating and Ashley Cole being caught telling porkies to their other halves, the research shows that women really are more dishonest than men. Four in five (79 per cent) women confessed to twisting the truth – albeit to protect someone’s feelings - while the majority (56 per cent) of male respondents believe honesty really is the best policy.

Psychologist Dr Glenn Wilson said: “It's interesting that women are more inclined to use white lies than men, who prefer to ‘tell it like it is’. This is consistent with female tender-mindedness as contrasted with male tough-mindedness. However, there are also differences between the sexes in what one is deceptive about. Men famously deny their interest in other women, while women conceal how much they have spent on clothes.”

The findings also reveal that when Midlanders do break their honesty policy, it’s because they want to protect someone’s feelings (75 per cent), whilst Londoners - the country’s most prolific fibbers - do so to avoid conflict (63 per cent).

Matt Owen spokesperson for Direct Line comments: “There are many stereotypes surrounding regional differences in attitudes towards honesty across the UK. We wanted to explore the realities behind some of these long-held perceptions of straight-talking Brits."

For more information, please contact:

Natalie Wheeler at Unity
0207 440 9819

Kej Olutimayinn
020 7440 9814

Notes to editors

About the research:

Opinium Research carried out an online poll of 2,012 British adults from 3rd to 7th June 2010.

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides car, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

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Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting