First Presidential Debate Draws 67.2 Million Viewers, Up 28% From 2008

Categories: 1-Featured,Broadcast TV,Cable TV

Written By

October 4th, 2012

via nielsenwire.

An estimated 67.2 million people watched Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama debate Republican challenger Gov. Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate on Wednesday, October 3.

The debate was carried live from the University of Denver in Colorado across 11 networks and was moderated by Jim Lehrer, host of NewsHour on PBS.

While coverage varied by network, 11 networks aired live coverage from approximately 9:00 PM to 10:30 PM while Telemundo aired coverage on tape delay. The chart below highlights the sum of the average audience for these networks.

Viewership to last night’s debate was up 28 percent compared to the first presidential debate in 2008 between then Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.

2012 Networks Included:

2008 Networks Included:
Debate 1 – ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telefutura, Telemundo, BBC-America, CNBC, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC

  • The End

    Mitt Romneys going to save Americas economy by killing off Big Bird. You heard it here first.

  • Mike

    Mitt is still a dumb ass he never answered a question directly he just talked more

  • mem002400

    @Mike you are 100% right I ask myself the same thing when people say Mitt won. I am like how did he win? Hes been talking the last few months about this spending that he wants to do but then last night he was like I never said that. But he did more then once. I think if Mitt win we will have a bush2.0 America can not deal with another one of those. We will become China2.0 then. It take more then 4 years to fix what someone has messed up for the last 8 years before him. A lot of what is going on in America is stuff we are trying to fix that Bush put into place. 2 wars in 4 years is a lot of money going out. So remember who did that BUSH.

  • David

    I think the lefties refuse to admit is that Romney is far, far smarter than Obama.

    Romney had a 3.97 GPA from Harvard.

  • Mike


    Good for him … Yes sarcasm

  • Chikamatsu’s 10 Puppets

    I skipped this debate, and I’ll skip the future ones. All debates prove is how well politicians can lie to us when they’re under pressure.
    There were better things to watch than two grown men trying to get a job that they’ll both ultimately fail at.

  • Feedback

    Romney didn’t make any sense in anything he said last night and Obama didn’t say anything substantial at all… at least nothing that we haven’t heard before. At least Romney got a few zingers on Obama that made people go “Oh snap!”, but other than that, it was a pointless and boring debate. Obama should have called him out on the dumb things Romney was saying (Lower the debt, give everyone money and lower taxes? Great plan!), but Obama was acting way too cordial. In fact, he came off as a coward. So one looks cowardly and the other is a buffoon. What an election this is gonna be…

  • Eric_Philly

    Any word on how many people streamed it on youtube?

  • Joseph

    Viewers 2+? Are we really going to count toddlers as viewers? And if we are, how did they react when they heard Big Bird was going to get fired? :-)

    Oh, and Mr. Hahn… the debate is not the election. Lloyd Bentson scored one of the best debate zingers of all time against Dan Quayle, but it was Quayle who became vice president. The earliest polls show no real movement (which is what they’ve been showing for some time). The country is very polarized (read the comments on this article, including your own) and most people have made their minds up earlier than ever. The undecided who are still undecided are the Snookis of the world who just don’t care and aren’t paying attention and almost certainly didn’t spend an hour and a half watching the debate unless they tuned into it on CBS and thought it was one of their new shows. In the end, the debates give the media something to talk about, but they don’t swing voters or elections.
    The funny thing is that you call it an “Obamacle”, yet what people are complaining about regarding the President’s performance is that he didn’t call out Romney on the many mistruths he made during the debate (I saw one count that had it up to 27!), didn’t hammer Romney on his “47%” video, etc. No one’s complaining that Obama said something stupid or outrageous, only that he should have attacked Romney more. If I were a Romney supporter that wouldn’t be something I’d be bragging about. The reality is the President did what a frontrunner should do – play it safe, remain calm, and let the other guy jump up and down while you look, sound and act presidential. That’s actually what the human Vulcan Obama did and not a surprise from people who pay attention and know his style. He’s not an attack kind of guy. In essence, he’s trying to run out the clock, and that’s not a bad strategy when you’re ahead. Obama is up 8-10 points in Ohio with almost no undecided left. If Romney can’t win Ohio, he has to “clear the table” and pick up every other swing state, including three or four where Obama currently has 5+ point leads. The odds of Romney swinging all of those states by that much in four weeks are very low. The esteen sabremetician and statistician Nate Silver currently places an Obama win at 87.1% probability. Obama deciding to be safe and boring was the right call. IMHO, with those odds.

  • O

    I do not believe that any debate will have any major impact on voting patterns, unless a major gaffe happens. The majority of Romney supporters would have never considered voting for Obama and vice versa.

    As the person above as said, I highly recommend checking out FiveThirtyEight.

  • Norman

    Hate to tell the Republicans but George W. Bush got his clock cleaned in his first debate against Kerry and still won. Reagan got his butt kicked in 84′ against Mondale and still won huge. Before Obama 5 of the last 6 incumbents got beaten in the first debate. 3 still got reelected. So we’ll see what happens.

  • wstar1963

    There is so much more then just one debate. As a Republican who didn’t have Romney as his first choice, I am now much more excited. This debate will add tons of money for Romney from folks who were still sitting on the fence. There is a good 7-10% undecided voters who may look at Romney differently. Obama will come out stronger in the second debate, but I believe Romney will have an sound answer for the 47%, Bain and anything else Obama throws at him. I am excited.

  • Ben

    @Joseph youre point about the polls showing no real movement is just completely false

    @Norman yes Kerry won the first debate and ended up losing, but before the debate kerry was down 6 and pulled to within 1 point. romney’s deficit is less than half of what kerry’s was

  • Tommy Mickens

    That’s just hard to believe. Sure some people are into this election, but not like the countrywide interest in the 2008 election. I’d be shocked if this debate was even 1% above the first McCain/Obama debate, let alone 28% above.

  • Tommy Mickens

    Any by the way, I watched the debate on PBS, so I don’t have to deal with the before-and-after sensationalist histrionics of the networks’ and especially cable channels’ anchors and reporters.

    Thank Big Bird for PBS.

  • Robert

    How can anyone eat up what Romney said its obvious he lied his ass off to please the voters. If anyone serious believe him they just need to look up the secret scandal Romney homevideo to see the “real” Romney. Its obvious he is full of lies. No one can do what he suggests without cutting the taxes. How else would he give more to the military. He is a liar its clear.

  • Ray

    Here’s a constructive idea. Instead of just slinging political mud at each other all of you who want to talk politics should construct a “Presidential Candidate Excuse Bingo” card and then play it together at the next debate.

    Also, I heard that the losing candidate has agreed to appear on the last three episodes of Fringe. (Romney as Mormon alien jokes are far too easy here, likewise Obama the Kenyan Observer).

  • Jenny G

    I wonder if Michelle decided to ditch Obama for the after-debate anniversary meal?

  • James Romano


  • Ray

    Who is the TV character (present or past) who most reminds you of Mitt Romney? President Obama?

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