Debate Night Viewership Exceeds 2008 Levels

Last night’s Presidential debate attracted more viewers than either of the party conventions this year, and more than the first debate in the 2008 cycle:

More than 58 million people watched the first Presidential debate last night between President Obama and Mitt Romney, up substantially from the first debate in the 2008 election cycle, which had 52.4 million viewers.

Fox News was the most-watched cable news network during the debate, and will likely be the most-watched network on TV, though final broadcast numbers will not be released until after 4 PM.

Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, Fox and CBS are all up from the same debate in 2008, while CNN and ABC are down.

It’s typically the case that viewership for subsequent debates ends up being lower than viewership for the first debate. If that’s the case this year, then Mitt Romney picked a good night to turn in a good debate performance.

Update: Nielsen has updated its estimate of Wednesday night’s viewership to over 67 million.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This isn’t surprising. The stakes are higher this year. In ’08 we were having a crisis. In ’12 we’ve been having a crisis for four consecutive years. Zombieland has been dumbed down, no question, but they’re not completely catatonic. At least not yet.

  2. stonetools says:

    Well, looks like conservatives are convinced its a game changer. who knows, they may be right. Mitt’s Etch-a-Sketch into Moderate Mitt is now complete, and the conservative base couldn’t be happier.
    Unless the Democrats can somehow resurrect Primary Mitt, he might just be able to pull this off.

  3. Just Me says:

    I don’t particularly see it as a game changer. I liken it more to the losing team scoring a meaningless touchdown in the dwindling minutes of a blow out.

    That said-it doesn’t surprise me that there were more viewers for the debate than the conventions. Conventions have essentially turned into talking point speeches and outside of a few political junkies, most people just don’t care much at that point, and generally recognize that the speeches are more about talking points than real substance.

    The debates are different in that it is a venue where the candidates share the same stage and answer essentially the same questions. It is different and it allows voters to measure how the two candidates compare.

  4. Dave-0 says:

    The only folks not seeing this as a game-changer are Obama fanatics. Debates can and do change elections, just ask Carter.

  5. Smooth Jazz says:

    “I don’t particularly see it as a game changer. I liken it more to the losing team scoring a meaningless touchdown in the dwindling minutes of a blow out.”

    LOL, I think you’ve been sipping the “Obama has this won, Don’t let the door hit you in the you know what while you turn out the lights” koolaid OTB posters have been peddling here ever since they were sucked in by bogus NY Times, PPP & NBC polls showing huge Obama leads. Polls which suggested Dems outvoting Repubs by margins or gazzilion to one I might add. If nothing else, Rep enthusiasm revved up as a result of Mitt’s performance last night, and left wing pollsters for NBC, NY Times, CNN, ABC et al will be watched that much more closely to see if their partisan voting samples are credible in polls going forward.

    Perhaps the most dangerous number for Obama last night was the almost 60 million people that watched the debate, approx 20% of entire population and 60% or so of the country’s voting population. What all those people saw was a halting, bumbling Obama in over his head and out of his league when debating someone in command of details such as Romney. Don’t underestimate the impact on millions of low information, normally apolitical voters tuning in to begin their own voting decion making process, and how a performance like last night might calcify in the newly tuned in voters minds.

    I think the natural inclination of many Obama supporters is to hope last night wasn’t a game changer. But Romney has been inching up even in the rigged poll recently. I don’t think what happened last night was as “meaningless” as you think.Good luck to you and your candidate though. I think he’ll need it from here on out.

  6. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Perhaps the most dangerous number for Obama last night was the almost 60 million people that watched the debate”

    Strike that. Nielsen is now saying 67M watched the debate, a staggering number that may not have included millions more watching via internet streaming, etc. By comparison, Obama – McCain’s first debate in 2008 drew 52M viewers. Almost 30% more people watched this one compared to 4 years ago.

  7. Just Me says:

    LOL, I think you’ve been sipping the “Obama has this won, Don’t let the door hit you in the you know what while you turn out the lights” koolaid OTB posters have been peddling here ever since they were sucked in by bogus NY Times, PPP & NBC polls showing huge Obama leads.

    Don’t really think I have been drinking the koolaid.

    I just think it highly unlikely that Romney will run the table on all the toss up states and he has to do that to win. I think the popular vote is actually going to be fairly close,, but Obama still wins.

    I intend to vote for Romney and in a state where that vote is important (granted the 3 electoral college votes from my state pale in comparison to those in larger swing states).

    But I really struggle, looking at the electoral college outlook, to believe Romney is going to win.

  8. KariQ says:

    @Dave-0:

    The only folks not seeing this as a game-changer are Obama fanatics. Debates can and do change elections, just ask Carter.

    Except, as has been pointed out time and again, Reagen was already leading when the debate happened, so it didn’t change the game at all.

  9. Eric Florack says:

    think the natural inclination of many Obama supporters is to hope last night wasn’t a game changer. But Romney has been inching up even in the rigged poll recently. I don’t think what happened last night was as “meaningless” as you think.

    Well, as meaningless as they’d like US to think. See also, whistling in the dark.