TV leaders' debate attracts 7 million viewers

There was no clear winner as the seven parties battled it out on ITV

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The Independent Culture

The leaders’ debate on ITV attracted an average audience of seven million viewers last night.

David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett took to their podiums on Thursday to debate key issues for the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Scottish National Party, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and Green parties respectively, ahead of the May general election.

See the leaders' debate in numbers

Moderated by Julie Etchingham from ITV News at Ten, the debate began at 8pm and lasted two hours, drawing a 31 per cent share of the TV audience and reaching a peak audience of 7.35 million to be named the highest-rating programme of the night. Viewers watching on catch-up or the broadcast on BBC News are not included in these figures.

The leaders’ debate is now ITV’s most-watched programme of the year so far, excluding hit drama Broadchurch and long-running soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale. It was the channel’s most-watched Thursday evening since England played Uruguay in the World Cup last summer.

Polls conducted after the debate took place did not show a clear winner, with topics discussed including the economy, immigration and the NHS.

Many viewers took to Twitter to air their opinions with more than 1.5 million tweets recorded about the debate – the second most-tweeted about programme of 2015 to date behind the Brit Awards in February.

The #leadersdebate hashtag became the top trending topic worldwide while the programme was on air after trending in the UK all day.

The first televised leaders' debate in 2010 attracted 9.4 million viewers when Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg fought it out over 90 minutes.