Final Presidential Debate Draws 71.6 Million Viewers
The final debate of 2016 didn't draw as many viewers as the first Hillary v. Donald match-up, but it still drew a respectable number.
- Last night’s final Presidential debate ended up drawing in more viewers than the second, but failed to reach the numbers of the first debate:
The final debate matchup Wednesday night between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump brought in 71.6 million viewers, beating the second contest in the ratings but failing to top the record-setting first debate, according to Nielsen.
The first clash brought in 84 million viewers, the most ever for a presidential debate, while 66.5 million tuned in for the second. Both of those events went head-to-head with National Football League games, while Wednesday’s debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas did not.
Fox News, whose host Chris Wallace moderated the debate, beat out both the broadcast and cable competition with about 11.3 million viewers. About 8.7 million people tuned in on CNN while 5.5 million watched on MSNBC.
During the 90-minute debate, which got off to a sedate start before turning more combative, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump argued over issues ranging from the Supreme Court to abortion to immigration. Mr. Trump refused to say whether he would honor the results of the election, saying that he will “tell you at the time.” Mr. Wallace was credited with pressing the candidates on the issues.
Ratings for the third debate in 2012 brought in 59.2 million viewers.
CNN media reporter Brian Stelter has more:
About 71.6 million people tuned in for the third and final presidential debate of the year.
The total audience was smaller than the first Trump-Clinton face-off on September 26, but bigger than the rematch on October 9.Reflecting the intense interest in this election, Wednesday’s debate was significantly higher-rated than the final debates of the 2008 and 2012 cycles.
President Obama and Mitt Romney’s final debate in 2012 averaged 59 million viewers. Obama and John McCain’s final debate in 2008 averaged 56 million.
According to Nielsen, 12 channels that carried the debate averaged 71.6 million viewers altogether.
Some other channels, like C-SPAN, are not rated by Nielsen. Internet live streams are measured separately.
On Wednesday night, there was no NFL competition, but there was a highly anticipated Cubs-Dodgers playoff game.
The debate was moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News, marking the first time that a Fox journalist led a general election debate. Fox’s extensive promotion paid off: the channel’s coverage of the debate averaged 11.3 million viewers, out-rating its rivals.
CNN was close behind Fox in the key demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds, and topped Fox in that demo after the debate.
Nielsen metrics showed relatively steady viewership throughout the 90-minute debate, with just a small amount of drop-off in the 10 p.m. hour.
As before, these numbers don’t reflect people who watching via Internet livestreams, nor does it include the number of people who may have been watching on C-SPAN since Nielsen does not include that network in its monitoring of viewership. The fact that there was a drop off from the first debate isn’t very surprising, of course, since this is generally the pattern with Presidential debates in the past and, as noted, the fact that viewership was higher than it had been for the second debate is likely largely due to the lack of competition from an NFL game this time around, especially since it meant that NBC’s broadcast stations, which were running the football game during the last debate, were all showing the debate this time around. Additionally, as I noted after the second debate, there was a large swath of the southern United States that was still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew at the time of the second debate. With that out of the way, it’s not surprising that ratings bounced back.
These numbers also mark the final numbers in a pattern we’ve seen since the start of this Presidential race. Whether its because of the presence of Donald Trump or other factors, there has been a tremendous amount of interest in the Presidential race this year to an extent that arguably rivals what we saw in 2008 with the candidacy of Barack Obama, and the ratings for the Democratic and Republican Primary debates, as well as the Presidential debates, have been one powerful indication of that. Whether it translates into turnout, and what that means for the the outcome of the race, is something we won’t know until the results are in on Election Night. My suspicion is that part of it is motivated by people who are supporting Trump who haven’t voted in the past, and that a good part of it is motivated by negative reaction to Trump and the desire to ensure that he isn’t elected President. The question, in the end, is which group is larger, although my guess is that it’s the anti-Trump crowd. As I said, we’ll find out on Election Night.