Almost 70% disapprove of Rajoy’s decision to shun EL PAÍS debate

The three PM candidates who participated in encounter all receive passing grades in poll

Albert Rivera (left), Pablo Iglesias and Pedro Sánchez exchange handshakes after the debate.
Albert Rivera (left), Pablo Iglesias and Pedro Sánchez exchange handshakes after the debate.ULY MARTIN (EL PAÍS)

An opinion survey by polling firm Metroscopia has found that nearly 70 percent of voters disapprove of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s decision to skip the election debate organized on Monday night by EL PAÍS.

Even among supporters of his own Popular Party (PP), one out of every four respondents (24 percent) said they would have liked to have seen the incumbent debate the issues with the other three contenders.

Rajoy has claimed that he only debates with the main opposition leader, nobody else

The candidates who did show up – Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos and Pablo Iglesias of Podemos – all received passing grades from respondents, with very little difference between them. Rivera obtained a score of 5.9 out of 10, Sánchez 5.8 and Iglesias 5.0 – figures that reflect the slight differences between them recorded in voting intention surveys.

The opinion poll shows that only 22 percent of respondents agree with Rajoy’s strategic decision to stay away from the pioneering election debate, which broke new ground in several ways: it was the first to be broadcast online rather than on television; it pitted several nominees against each other, rather than just two; and it allowed for audience participation through questions.

Another significant piece of information to emerge from the survey is how well each candidate fared in the opinion of voters from other parties. While each received top grades from their own supporters, Ciudadanos leader Rivera also got passing grades from PP and Socialist sympathizers.

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Socialist leader Sánchez, on the other hand, flunked in the eyes of both PP and Podemos voters, and barely got a passing grade from Ciudadanos supporters.

Podemos’s Iglesias was roundly rejected by PP sympathizers, who gave him two out of 10, but he received a strong 6.2 from Socialist voters, a fact that shows that the anti-austerity party is managing to take votes away from the main opposition party.

Rajoy has stated that he will only debate with the main opposition leader, and that he will do so during the last week of the campaign run.

A similar situation is expected to take place on December 7, when the three candidates and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Rajoy’s deputy, will face off in a television debate that will be aired on the private Antena 3 and La Sexta networks.

EL PAÍS declined the PP’s offer to send Sáenz de Santamaría to Monday’s debate on the grounds that only the genuine candidates to the prime minister’s office should take part. That is why the PP podium remained empty throughout the event.

English version by Susana Urra.

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