The poll suggests that over half (55%) of people are in favour of the TV debates, whether or not they include David Cameron.
The Prime Minister is refusing to agree with the broadcasters on having three TV debates in April and instead wants one with all seven leaders to take place in March. The broadcasters have proposed two seven-way debates between David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, the Greens’ Natalie Bennett, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood.
Additionally, the poll indicates that 62% of people think that the Prime Minister genuinely does not want the debates to go ahead, with 13% thinking he genuinely wants them. Compare this to the Labour leader’s ratings with 65% thinking that Ed Miliband actually wants there to be debates, with just 9% thinking the opposite. Clearly the public think that the Prime Minister does not want the debates to go ahead.
The poll also suggested that in regards to the final proposed debate - where Cameron and Miliband would go head to head - 41% think that if the Prime Minister fails to show then the leader of the opposition should be interviewed instead. However, in this scenario 39% think that there should be no head to head debate at all.
So what will happen? At this stage not much is clear other than that the public want TV debates with or without the Prime Minister and that they think the Prime Minister does not want the debates to even happen.
It is understandable why the Prime Minister would not wish to debate Mr Miliband head on and wishes to just have one seven-way debate in which the Labour leader can be attacked from the left. A head to head debate will have expectations: Ed Miliband’s personal ratings are rather low so expectations will be just as low. Miliband will likely outperform such expectations, after all he is intelligent and can orate well, despite people thinking negatively of him. Furthermore, Cameron is seen as more charismatic and will be expected to do well, so mistakes will likely be picked up on.
On the other hand, if well prepared Cameron could beat Miliband. The Prime Minister could recalculate and decide that the debates - or at least some compromise of them - could work in his favour. Or he could carry on refusing the proposals, calculating that the debates are not worth the risk, sacrificing short term ridicule for long term gain.
The full results of the poll can be found here.