Fewer than 22 million people watched the 2010 televised leaders' election debates

6th Mar 2015

A joint statement from the broadcasters BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky claimed that:

"22 million people watched the election debates in 2010".


This figure has been quoted in recent news coverage on the issue of televised leaders' debates for 2015, and makes it sound like 35% of the 62.8 million people living in the UK in 2010 watched the debates.

The true number of distinct viewers is likely to be smaller than this. According to figures from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB), the three debates had an estimated audience of 22.7 million in total. But 22.7 million viewers across three debates is not the same as 22.7 million people watching them: many will have tuned in to more than one debate.