Britain’s general election on May is very much a three-horse race according to opinion polls published the second-ever prime ministerial debate.
Surveys say voter support is thinly split between Gordon Brown’s Labour, David Cameron’s Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.
Clegg’s popularity soared on the back of his widely-praised performance in last week’s first televised debate.
But he is unlikely to become prime minister. Under Britain’s electoral system, parties must win the majority of districts and not the popular vote
Audience members outside in the studios in Bristol, southwest England gave their views on the three leaders.
One man said: “I think it was really good. It was a lot more evenly matched than the previous one. I guess it’s because they are all used to the format a little bit more now.
But one twenty-something female voter was unhappy, saying she was “disappointed with all three of them.”
Britain’s newspapers were split down political lines on who had won the debate.
The Times of London and The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, claimed Cameron was the outright winner.
Meanwhile, the left-leaning dailies such The Independent, The Guardian and Daily Mirror declared Clegg as the victor.
If no-one wins an overall majority, the Lib Dems could barter with the other parties to extract policy concessions .
Leader Nick Clegg, a one-time MEP, has previously advocated joining the euro and says Britain should forge closer ties with the EU.