YouGov pollster: Theresa May’s debate no-show will have no impact on opinion polls

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YouGov’s Joe Twynam.
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YouTube/Sheffield Methods Institute

LONDON – The BBC leaders’ debate that took place on Wednesday night will have no significant impact on public opinion, according to YouGov pollster Joe Twyman.

Speaking to Business Insider immediately after the televised debate finished, YouGov’s Head of Political and Social Research said that it didn’t produce any moments or lines that would have a lasting impact on the opinion polls.

“No, I don’t think it will [have an impact],” Twyman told us last night.

“In order for something to have an impact on the polls it has to be significant not just tonight, not just on the news bulletins afterwards, but then in next day’s papers and rolling on from that.

“It needs to go viral, to use the language of the internet. There were no particular lines either good or bad from tonight that I thought would resonate. There will be a general story around Theresa May not turning up, but I don’t think it’ll have a lasting impact.”

Prime Minister Theresa May was a notable absence from the debate in Cambridge, with Home Secretary Amber Rudd being chosen to represent the Tories. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made a last minute decision to partake having initially ruled out doing so unless May shows up. The Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP, SNP, and Plaid Cymru all sent their Westminster party leaders to Cambridge University to take part. You can relive the stand-out moments here.

Twyman added that TV debates have the potential to cause movements in the opinion polls, but doesn’t believe the 2017 general election will be an example of this phenomenon.

“Well, the biggest impact was in 2010 with Cleggmania and all that sort of thing in his first TV debate,” he said. “It really turned things around for him. In 2010, we saw a 10 point jump in the polls [for Clegg’s Liberal Democrats] after that TV debate. But this one is a different format and it’s not the first one. Plus, even in 2010, the debate didn’t have a lasting impression. So will tonight make a difference? I don’t think so.”

Twyman was receiving more attention than usual in the green room on Wednesday night as a result of YouGov’s striking projection that May is set to lose a significant number of seats on June 8. The polling company sent British politics into a frenzy this week when it published research suggesting Britain was heading for a hung parliament.

“Of course we were expecting that reaction,” Twyman told us.

“We knew it would attract attention. It hasn’t knocked our confidence because we will be tested on election day.

“Nobody knows what the true story is here, but we will find out on June 8.”