Who will win the second TV debate?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
April 22, 2010, 6:00 PM GMT+0

The second political leaders’ TV debate takes place tonight on Sky News (as well as BBC News and Sky 3, repeated on BBC 2), and it seems that expectations run high for Nick Clegg. Universally deemed to be the winner of last week’s debate, Clegg’s popularity has soared in the past seven days, apparently solely due to the debate’s success, with the Lib Dems doing unexpectedly well in the polls (and on the TellYouGov leaderboard). They have sailed ahead from their usual third place to become a real contender, repeatedly beating Labour and wrestling neck-and-neck for first place against the previously-unmoving Conservatives, with a winning peak of 34% so far. As a result, all will be looking to see how this next debate’s effects compare to those of the last.

47% feel that Clegg will perform best in tonight’s debate, compared to just 21% for David Cameron and 11% for Gordon Brown. And while there is predictably more favour for each of the three leaders among their staunch supporters, it seems that expectations are not simply split along party lines. With 50% of Conservative supporters thinking Nick Clegg will perform best compared to only 29% for Cameron, and only 35% of Labour supporters allying with Brown, compared to 40% with Nick Clegg, it remains to be seen whether these non-LibDems have been swept along on the ‘Clegg mania’ wave or are just pitching him high to watch him fall.

When it comes to who is expected to perform worst, the picture is more or less the same, confirming just how much scrutiny the Lib Dem leader will be under come 8pm (2000 BST). Again, Clegg emerges the most favourably, with only three percent thinking he will put in the poorest performance. Cameron comes in second on 29%, while the beleaguered Brown is expected to fare the worst, on 52%.

But how much clout does a TV debate really have? Indeed, it seems that all may still be to play for, with a sizeable 21% claiming they don’t know who will perform best – a fair proportion of whom may just be waiting to see what happens.

With Clegg’s policies facing criticism and both the Conservatives and Labour on the offensive following this week’s unprecedented polls, all sides will be watching closely to see if Clegg builds on his early success or whether he cracks under the pressure of being the newly hatched butterfly from a previously-hidden chrysalis.

Last week, YouGov was the fastest pollster to provide instant reactions to the first ever debate, and we hope to follow suit this evening. Will you see Clegg follow last week’s run to fly or will his opponents succeed in clipping his wings? Find out tonight.

For survey details and full results, please click here