ITV TV debates
The research comes just hours before the seven-way TV debate at the ITV studios in Salford Getty

A majority of the British electorate will cast their vote at the general election depending on the performance of party figureheads, putting pressure on the leaders ahead of the seven-way TV debate tonight.

A poll from Penn Schoen Berland and Burson-Marsteller, which questioned more than 1,000 voters, found that 69% of people will vote according to their thoughts on party figureheads.

The survey, published in Total Politics magazine, also found that only 31% of respondents said that the performance of their local MP is the most important factor as to how they vote on 7 May.

The research comes just hours before seven leaders of the established UK political parties, including David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, clash on ITV.

Each participant will give a one-minute statement following each question before the discussion is opened up for around 17 to 18 minutes. None of the leaders will see the questions in advance.

The Salford based event will come with just 35 days before the general election and will the first and only time opposition leader Miliband will debate with the prime minister.

The Labour leader has been boosted after his party took a two-point lead over the Tories in the final national opinion poll before tonight's debate.

Populus, who questioned more than 2,000 voters between 31 March and 1 April, put Labour on 34% (+2), the Tories on 32% (-2), Ukip on 15% (unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats on 9% (+1).