ITV General Election debate watched by 2.1 million viewers on average

The ITV General Election debate between seven senior political party figures was watched by more than two million viewers, the broadcaster has said.

The second head-to-head for the politicians on Thursday, moderated by Julie Etchingham, had an average audience 2.1 million and a peak of 2.4 million across devices, according to overnight ratings.

This includes those watching on streaming service ITVX.

The BBC hosted the first multi-party debate last Friday, which had an average audience of 3.2 million tuning in across BBC One and the BBC News Channel, according to overnight ratings by the corporation.

General Election campaign 2024
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt take part in the ITV Election Debate (Jonathan Hordle/ITV)

Both showdowns featured the Conservatives’ Penny Mordaunt, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer and Reform UK’s Nigel Farage.

On Thursday night, the senior figures took questions from the audience before they debated with each other over the NHS, education, immigration and referenda.

It comes as a new major opinion poll revealed that Reform UK has overtaken the Conservatives.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by The Times newspaper, has Nigel Farage’s party at 19% to the Conservatives’ 18% in voting intention, while Labour remains in the lead at 37%, with the Liberal Democrats at 14%, the Greens at 7%, the SNP at 3%, Plaid Cymru at 1% and others at 2%.

General Election campaign 2024
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage (Jonathan Hordle/ITV)

Earlier in the month, ITV held the first TV debate of the election campaign which saw Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer go up against each other.

It was watched by an average of five million viewers and had a peak of 5.5 million across devices including ITVX, according to the broadcaster’s overnight ratings.

This marked a sharp drop in ratings since the 2019 general election debate on ITV between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, which was the first time the two leaders went head-to-head on TV during the campaign, and had an average audience of 6.7 million based on overnight ratings.

The record for the highest TV ratings for an election debate in the UK was set in 2010 by the first leaders’ debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg – which was broadcast by ITV and had an average overnight audience of 9.4 million.