Fifth Republican Debate Gets More Than 18 Million Viewers

Another set of solid ratings for the latest debate.

Fifth Republican Debate

Preliminary reports indicate that more than 18 million people watched last night’s fifth Republican debate:

More than 18 million people tuned in to CNN to watch the Republican candidates for president on Tuesday, the third-highest viewership in history for a nominating debate, according to Nielsen data provided by the cable network.

CNN also delivered the debate to the Web, mobile apps and connected TVs, registering at least 3.1 million live streams, according to the network. Usage peaked at 815,000 concurrent streams at 9:45 p.m.

Tuesday’s debate, moderated by Wolf Blitzer, was the second-most-watched program in CNN history, ranking behind an earlier Republican debate in September and signaling continued intense interest in the 2016 presidential election.

These numbers continue a pattern that started with the 24 million that watched the first Republican debate, the 22 million who watched the second GOP debate, the 15 million who watched the first Democratic debate, the 14 million who watched the third Republican debate on CNBC, and the 13.5 million who watched the fourth Republican Debate on Fox Business Network. The numbers are also vastly better than the 8.5 million who watched the Second Democratic Debate, which aired on a Saturday night in November opposite several college football games. While much of this, possibly, can be attributed to the presence of a celebrity like Donald Trump in the race, the fact that the Democratic debates are getting numbers that are, while lower than those for any of the Republican debates, quite respectable for political debates. Arguably, this could be evidence of the fact that the voting public is already quite interested in the 2016 race, even though the numbers have fallen off from what we saw in the early debates. In that respect, it will be interesting to see what the ratings are like for the next Democratic debate, which will be this coming Saturday in New Hampshire and will be broadcast on ABC.

Going forward, we have three more debates before voting starts with the Iowa Caucuses. Republicans will debate twice in January, on January 14th from South Carolina and broadcast on Fox Business Network, and then another debate on January 28th from New Hampshire and broadcast on Fox News Channel. Both of these debates will be on a Thursday. Democrats have one debate after Saturday, on January 17th, a Sunday, from South Carolina which will be broadcast on NBC. The time for the NBC debate has yet to be announced, but it could potentially conflict with the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, or at least partially conflict depending on how long the game(s) last. In any case, that will be the schedule before the Iowa Caucuses, and after that the Republicans presently have three debates scheduled for February in New Hampshire on the weekend prior to the New Hampshire Primary, in South Carolina before that state’s primary, and then in Texas in anticipation of the so-called “SEC Super Tuesday” primaries in early March. The status of that last debate is still somewhat up in the air since it was originally set to be aired on NBC but the Republican National Committee pulled that arrangement in the wake of October’s disastrous CNBC debate. The debate is still set to go forward, but it’s unclear whether the RNC and NBC will resolve their differences, or if another network will step in to air the debates. After that, we head into March and debates will become less common, but the so, presumably, will the number of candidates on both sides of the aisle.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Economics and Business, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Scott says:

    I must be becoming progressively out of touch with the general population. I watched the first two but have had zero interest since then.

  2. SKI says:

    I lasted about 30 minutes last night. It was ultimately unbearable.

  3. CSK says:

    I’d have watched only if someone had promised me that Trump would pull some incredibly freakish stunt and start hopping around the stage like the Energizer bunny. I suspect many people who did watch were hoping for something similar.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Did anyone notice there wasn’t a word about the Paris Climate Change Agreement?
    The biggest threat we face…according to both the military and a lot of business interests…and not a single peep.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    The only conclusion I can reach is that none of the people on that stage are qualified to be president although I could probably say the same thing about Hillary Clinton when it comes to foreign policy
    One of the unkowns is how much of the nonsense Trump spouts he actually believes himself. Some are saying Rubio did OK – only if he was running for village idiot.

  6. DrDaveT says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Did anyone notice there wasn’t a word about the Paris Climate Change Agreement?

    What were you expecting? The only possible comment from any of them (with the possible exception of Paul) would be to promise to repeal whatever trivial commitments the US makes on Day 1 in office…

  7. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Some are saying Rubio did OK – only if he was running for village idiot.

    Rubio has been coasting, getting complacent. He seemed completely unprepared for the ‘attacks’ and comments that were direct toward him.

  8. Jay Gischer says:

    For the life of me, I cannot understand why someone would describe a person who just spent 6 years as Secretary of State as “unqualified to be president in foreign affairs”. After 6 years as a Senator, to boot, serving on the Armed Forces Committee among others.

    I’m not going to argue the point with you, because it’s about Hillary, and there’s just no talking to people about her. However, this is me not getting it.

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Damn, I would have paid hard cash to watch that.