CNN’s GOP Debate Draws 18 Million Viewers; Where Does That Place It on the All-Time List? Here’s the Top 10

Dec 16, 2015  •  Post A Comment

The huge turnout continues for presidential debates this year, with Tuesday night’s GOP debate ranking third on the all-time list for U.S. presidential primary debates with 18.039 million viewers.

The debate also ranks as the third-largest audience for a non-sports cable telecast on record.

The all-time top 10 list of primary debates (see below) is dominated by this year’s debates, with the six top spots on the list going to events held in the past few months. Two of this year’s debates have more than doubled the audience for the previous record holder, which was ABC’s Democratic debate on April 16, 2008, with 10.693 million viewers.

The No. 1 spot continues to be held by the first GOP debate of the season, held by Fox News back on Aug. 6, with 23.997 million viewers.

Tuesday’s debate delivered 5.6 million viewers in the 25-54 demo, and also notched 3.1 million live streams. The “undercard” debate, airing before the main event, pulled in 5.7 million total viewers and 1.4 million in 25-54.

Here are the top 10 presidential primary debates in U.S. history by total viewers, based on Nielsen data:

  1. Fox News Republican Debate, Cleveland Ohio (8/6/2015): 23,997,000
  2. CNN Republican Debate, Reagan Library (9/16/2015): 23,056,000
  3. CNN Republican Debate, Las Vegas (12/15/2015): 18,039,000
  4. CNN Democratic Debate, Las Vegas (10/13/2015): 15,459,000
  5. CNBC Republican Debate, Boulder CO (10/28/2015): 14,005,000
  6. FBN Republican Debate, Milwaukee, WI (11/10/2015): 13,454,000
  7. ABC Democratic Debate, Philadelphia (4/16/2008): 10,693,000
  8. ABC Democratic Debate, New Hampshire (1/5/2008): 9,362,000
  9. CBS Democratic Debate, Des Moines (11/14/2015): 8,552,000
  10. CNN Democratic Debate, Los Angeles (1/31/2008): 8,324,000


One Comment

  1. Don’t forget about the Ross Perot debate in 1993 with 16.837 million viewers. So, technically, your story isn’t in ‘history.’ Nice research.

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