Presidential Debate Early Numbers Down Big From 2016

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Early fast national ratings for Tuesday’s presidential debate are down substantially from 2016.

Per Hollywood Reporter, Trump-Biden drew 28.8 million viewers across ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. That’s down 36% from Trump-Clinton I’s 45.3 million viewers in the preliminary ratings.

So there is no confusion: this is not the final number. The average increase with time zone adjustments, cable news viewership, and out of home viewing (which wasn’t a factor in 2016).

That said, the massive drop is a strong indication Trump-Biden will fall well short of Trump-Clinton’s record-breaking 84 million.

I’m not surprised to see the decline. Monday, in the Outkick Media Mailbag,I predicted a noticeable drop from 2016:

“Trump-Biden doesn’t have the mystique of Trump-Clinton. Joe Biden is a boring candidate. His “lids” are more newsworthy than his policies. Hillary Clinton was a controversial figure who viewers tuned in to root against. On the Democratic side, the interest is not close to akin. Though, there is intrigue to see if Biden can hold up on stage across from Trump.

“President Trump is still the country’s most polarizing, interesting personality. However, in the 2016 debate, viewers needed to see Trump with their own eyes. For millions, the first presidential debate confirmed a wild-card, a non-politician, a celebrity could run the country. 

“Four years ago, routine Republican voters were contemplating if they could get behind Trump. Today, whether it is yes or no, that decision is made.”

I went with 73 million.

Check back to Outkick later to give me credit or mock me for the next four years.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.


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  1. Hey Bobby,
    Your reasoning makes sense for sure.
    Considering Trump has a proven record of accomplishment, you’re spot on about voters having already made up their minds one way or the other.
    Similarly, “47-Year Plague” Joe has a record of never doing much except enriching his family and being “The Man” in creating the 1994 Crime Bill.
    Thanks for all your continuing efforts!!!

  2. Not shocked. People are sick of it. I didn’t watch and from what I heard it is exactly what I thought it was going to be. Child like banter back and forth with personal pop shots.

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