2016 Debate Ratings



Date Viewership (millions)
GOP 1 8/6/15 24.0
GOP 2 9/16/15 23.1
DEM 1 10/13/15 15.3
GOP 3 10/28/15 14.0
GOP 4 11/10/15 13.5
DEM 2 11/14/15 7.2
GOP 5 12/15/15 18.2
DEM 3 12/19/15 6.7
GOP 6 1/14/2016 11.0
DEM 4 1/17/2016 10.2
GOP 7 1/28/2016 12.5
DEM 5 2/4/2016 4.5
GOP 8 2/6/2016 13.2
DEM 6 2/11/2016 8
GOP 9 2/13/2016 13.5
  • Total GOP: 143M
  • Total DEM: 51.9M

Updated February 14, 2016: Updated to include ratings from the last four (4!) debates over the past ten (10!) days.  GOP ratings are up and Dem ratings are mixed, with a low reading for the pre-NH debate at 4 million viewers and a higher one for the post-NH South Carolina Dem Debate (8 million)

Updated January 29, 2016: Updated to include ratings from last night’s GOP debate, the final before the Iowa Caucus on Monday.  This debate was notable because Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination, decided to skip it.  In addition, Mr. Trump held a competing fundraising event, which may or may not have had something to do with veterans.  Details of the viewership for that event can be found here.

Updated January 18, 2016: Includes details from most recent debates.  Cumulatively, GOP debates have attracted 103.8 million viewers to Democrat’s 39.4 million viewers.

Updated December 21, 2015: Includes details from the most recent Democratic debate, which received 6.7 million viewers.  This debate is the lowest-rated of any debate so far and attracted under half of the viewers of the lowest-rated Republican debate of the 2016 cycle.


I follow politics pretty closely, paying attention to it similarly to how many of my peers pay attention to sports.  I read the Wall Street Journal every day, am pretty active on twitter, and enjoy working a block from the White House, in the center of America’s political world.  Imagine my surprise when one month ago, I saw a tweet about the second Democratic debate, which had at that moment just kicked off.

“Wait a second,” I asked myelf I’ve been making time to watch every debate, planning my schedule around them and getting together with friends.  I don’t have cable, so I’ve had to make sure that I left the house in order to watch these debates.  How did this one sneak by me and why on earth are they having it on a Saturday?

Maybe Debbie Wasserman Schultz is just really bad at negotiating with networks.  Maybe, as Hillary’s two remaining opponents have theorized, the debates are intentionally suppressed in order to avoid creating an environment that could derail the Democrat’s presumptive nominee.  Regardless of motivation, I thought it would be worthwhile to see how the debates stacked up against one another from a ratings perspective.  Below are the chart and table with debates and their performance.  These will be updated as debates continue.