Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
After the seven-way fray, the confusion began: who won? There were four opinion polls held directly after the debates: from Survation, YouGov, ICM and ComRes.
The YouGov poll asked 1,522 people after the debate, putting aside their personal political preferences, who they thought performed best overall in the ITV Leaders’ Debate. Excluding people who did not know, 28% backed SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. In this poll, UKIP leader Nigel Farage came second, on 20%. The Prime Minister David Cameron was hustled back into third, on 18%, whilst the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband languished in fourth, with 15%. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg achieved 10%. The Green’s Natalie Bennett and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood achieved 5% and 4%, respectively.
YouGov also asked which party leader was the most impressive during each part of the tetraptych debate. On the economy, David Cameron was in control, convincing 33% of respondents. In this section, Ed Miliband impressed 22%. On healthcare, the Labour leader achieved 25%, compared to 20% for the Conservative leader.
On immigration, Nigel Farage was most impressive to 41% of YouGov’s electorate. This figure was vastly ahead of his nearest competitor: Nicola Sturgeon, on 12%. Ed Miliband won the section on education and young people, with 22%. For comparison, David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon both held 19% of those surveyed.
On behalf of The Guardian, ICM interviewed 1,372 people who watched the live debate. Among the seven party leaders, Labour’s Ed Miliband was said to have won the debate by 20% of respondents. This figure was just slightly more than the Conservative’s David Cameron, who convinced 24% of the ICM survey. Nigel Farage won according to 19% of those surveyed, whereas 17% thought Nicola Sturgeon was victorious. Nick Clegg managed a mere 9%. Once again, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood triumphed to a small portion of people: 3% and 2%.
Survation asked 1,004 people who they believed ‘won’ the debate. It was a dead heat between David Cameron and Ed Miliband: with 253 people each, or 25.2%. Nigel Farage was close to the main two leaders in this poll, with 23.6% of Survation’s respondents. Similarly to other polls, Natalie Benett managed 2.7%, whereas Leanne Wood convinced only 2.3%.
On each section, Survation’s poll said David Cameron won the economic arguments (39.5%), Ed Miliband triumphed on the NHS (33.3%), Nigel Farage was the victor over immigration (49.5%), and David Cameron won on “the future of the United Kingdom” (31.9%).
Finally, ComRes pre-recruited 1,120 people to interview directly after the debates. Their result was a three-way split between Cameron, Miliband and Farage, who all won the debate according to 21% of the public. Nicola Sturgeon was just behind on 20%. In this poll, Nick Clegg was the victor to 9% of those surveyed. Only 5% of the public thought Natalie Bennett won, whilst just 2% thought the same of Leanne Wood.
The ComRes poll states 30% of the debate viewers would be more likely to back Labour, compared to 29% of the Conservatives. Asked which leader projected particular qualities, 26% said UKIP’s Nigel Farage was the most honest, and 25% believed Labour’s Ed Miliband came across as understanding their concerns. 40% of respondents thought the current Prime Minister came across as most capable of leading the country, and 27% believed David Cameron had the best ideas for Britain’s future.
Given the miniscule support for the Greens and Plaid Cymru in the post-debate polls, their inclusion must be questioned. A commission should determine the inclusion in televised debates, according to known and defined criteria.