Majority of Britons want TV election debates - Sky Data poll

Connor Sephton, News Reporter

A Sky Data poll suggests that 64% of Britons believe there should be televised debates between party leaders during the General Election campaign.

Only 31% of those surveyed thought no such events should take place between now and 8 June - while 5% said they were unsure.

The poll comes as Theresa May told Sky News she will not participate in any TV debates - prompting an angry reaction from leaders in rival parties.

After telling the Commons she was proud of what the Conservatives had achieved in government, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked: "If Theresa May is so proud of her record, why won't she debate it?

"She cannot be allowed to run away from her duty to democracy and refuse to let the British people hear the arguments directly."

When asked by Sky News after a campaign event in Bolton whether she would reconsider taking part in televised debates, Mrs May said: "I'm going to be campaigning out and around every community in the country."

Downing Street sources later told Sky News that she was considering a number of TV programme formats, but that she would not participate in a head-to-head debate with other party leaders.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told Sky News he was "very disappointed" that Mrs May was unwilling to attend any TV debate.

He said: "It seems to me she feels she has got everything to lose by going on television and debating myself and others.

"When all is said and done, she has chosen this election, she presumably has some confidence in her position, why won't she go out there and argue with people like me who want to challenge her?"

Both Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party have called on broadcasters who hold TV debates to "empty chair" Theresa May if she declines their invitations.

During PMQs, the SNP's leader in the Commons, Angus Robertson, asked: "If the Prime Minister is so confident of her hard-Brexit, pro-austerity, anti-immigration case, why won't she debate opposition leaders?"

In an interview earlier in the day, Mrs May had sought to justify her decision to avoid television debates, saying she believes in getting "out and about" to meet with voters instead.

Although a mainstay of US presidential elections for decades, the first live TV debates during a UK general election was only held in 2010.

ITV has confirmed it intends to hold a leaders' debate ahead of the snap election on 8 June, but has not provided any details of the format.

In past elections, Sky News has joined other broadcasters in urging all major political parties to commit to televised debates.

A Number 10 source said Mrs May's position remains unchanged despite protestations from her rivals, and other leaders can "participate in any programmes they want to" if broadcasters decide to host TV debates.

Sky Data interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,275 Sky customers by SMS on 19 April 2017. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

For full Sky Data tables, please click here.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes