Reputation survey: Leaders' debates - TV debates are a hit

The vast majority of the public believe future elections should include TV debates and that Nick Clegg has benefited most from the first two events, new research finds.

If the public has its way, televised leaders' debates ahead of general elections are here to stay, new figures show.

More than 80 per cent of the 3,000 respondents to PRWeek/OnePoll's latest survey said future elections should include debates.

And 70 per cent said the debates made them feel more engaged with politics.

Our survey clearly shows the Liberal Democrats have benefited the most from the debates in the eyes of the public, although voting may tell a different story.

Of the three leaders, Nick Clegg has come out of the debates the strongest, according to 62 per cent of respondents. A further 21 per cent said David Cameron had emerged the best, and just 16 per cent thought Gordon Brown had benefited most.

In further good news for Clegg, 70 per cent of respondents said they agreed with commentators who claimed his performance had turned Britain from a two-party system to a genuine three-party system.

But it remains to be seen, as the UK goes to the polls, whether Clegg really has done enough to turn his party into a genuine contender. At this stage, many feel a hung parliament is a more likely outcome.

As our graph shows, respondents said they paid more attention to the leaders'

debates than other types of campaigning such as canvassing, social media, advertising and editorial. And 65 per cent said the debates had increased their understanding of what the different leaders and their parties stood for. But when asked if the debates would influence voting, 39 per cent said yes. Interestingly, 39 per cent also said no. A further 23 per cent did not know.

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

HOW I SEE IT - Jon McLeod, Chairman, UK corporate communications and public affairs, Weber Shandwick

Love them or hate them, the leaders' debates are here to stay - and they have achieved more for democratic engagement than any law or campaign.

But if you take the TV shows out of the equation, 'none of the above' comes second in terms of campaigning influence. I see 15 per cent as actually quite a low reflection of public cynicism. Earned media is a creditable third - with paid advertising, including all those posters, looking like a waste of money.

By and large, a party still needs its leader to be loved, though nearly a third would back a party despite its leader - good news for Brown? We haven't quite moved to a three party system - yet. Voting reform, made more likely by Clegg-mania, is what will embed a three-way race, and potentially lock the Conservatives out of Government for a long time, hence that party's opposition to proportional representation.

Do the TV debates increase your understanding of what the different leaders and their parties stand for?

Don't know 13%

No 22%

Yes 65%

- Which leader do you think has come out of the leaders' debates the best?

Gordon Brown 16%

David Cameron 22%

Nick Clegg 62%

- Future Elections

84% said future general elections should include televised leaders' debates

- Engagement

70% agreed that the TV debates made them feel more engaged with politics

- Three-party state

70% agreed with commentators who said Clegg's performance had turned Britain from a two-party into a three-party state

- Best leader

62% believed Nick Clegg had come out of the leaders' debates the best

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