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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

First debate drew 52.4 million viewers

That seems like a lot, although this article points out it’s over 10 million fewer than the first Bush-Kerry debate (which took place exactly four years ago today).

But then, the first Bush-Kerry debate took place on a Thursday night, not a Friday night. Surely that had something to do with it.

On the other hand, neither of those debates made the top ten biggest audiences for a presidential debate ever. See that list here. At #1: Reagan-Carter in 1980, with over 80 million viewers. That beats the #2 debate – Bush-Clinton-Perot in 1992 - by almost 11 million viewers.

Here’s a screenshot (please note the copyright):

Notice that the second Bush-Cliinton-Perot debate, on October 19, 1992, is the last debate, calendar-wise, on that top ten list. The first Bush-Kerry in 2004 missed the cutoff by 200,000 viewers.

If anything, I’d have expected more recent debates to have drawn more viewers. We do have more TVs now, after all. Of course, we have a lot more TV channels, too.

The top ten debates in terms of Nielsen ratings is a whole different story:

The Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960 dominate the list. That must be because there were so few TVs, comparatively, in 1960.

I wonder how the Palin-Biden debate will stack up.