Voting interest up after UK debate
Electoral commission says website traffic doubled over previous weekend.
Last Modified: 03 May 2010 10:38 GMT
Thursday's televised debate has helped boost Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat candidate [AFP]

The number of Britons showing an interest in registering to vote in the country's May 6 general election has surged after last week's television debate between the three main candidates.

The UK's electoral commission reported a significant increase in the number of people visiting its website and downloading voter registration forms following last Thursday's debate.

On Thursday, 59,000 people visited the commission's website but on Friday, the day after the debate, the figure jumped to 100,000.

Over the weekend, 128,000 voter registration forms were downloaded, twice as many as during the previous weekend.

"The debate did have an impact. We did see a spike," said Jenny Watson, the head of the commission.

Facebook factor

A good performance in the debate by Nick Clegg, the opposition Liberal Democrat leader, has resulted in a dramatic surge in popularity for his party in the latest opinion polls.

special report

The Liberal Democrats now hope to win significant numbers of voters away from the ruling Labour party and main opposition Conservatives.

That makes it more likely that the election could produce a "hung parliament" in which no single party has an overall majority.

Such an outcome could force two of the parties to make an alliance, but it is unclear who would team up with whom.

The electoral commission said on Wednesday that as well as the debate, a partnership with the Facebook social networking website over the weekend had contributed to the spike in interest in voting.

Over the weekend, which was the last before the deadline to register, people logging onto Facebook from Britain were presented with a message asking them whether they had registered and directing them to the commission's website.

"The Facebook link really helped us," said Watson.

Another factor was that the deadline to register was on Tuesday, which could have prompted a last-minute decision to register from many voters, the commission said.

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