By Bonnie K. Goodman
Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence may have decisively won the vice presidential debate against rival Democrat Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, but it may not matter that much to the race since not too many voters viewed the debate. The only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle was viewed by 37.2 million people on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, falling short of more recent vice presidential debates.
Anything, however, would be a letdown after the historic matchup in the first presidential debate on Monday, Sept. 26 between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Last week, 84 million Americans watched Clinton beat Trump in the most watch presidential debate in history.
The Neilsen ratings only take account the nine television stations that played the debate, ignoring the countless methods to stream the debate online, a popular viewing method. The ratings showed, NBC as the most watched with 7 million, followed by CBS with 6.5 million, ABC and Fox News had 6.1 million viewers each, CNN with 4.2 million, MSNBC with 3.1 million, Fox broadcast network with 2.2 million, and PBS with 1.4 million viewers. Most millennials tuned out of the debate and only 12.4 million viewers came from the 25- to 54-year-old demographic.
Recent VP debates have all had over 40 million viewers. In 2012 the debate between Democratic VP Joe Biden and Republican Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan had 51.4 million viewers. In 2004, Republican VP Dick Cheney and Democratic North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had 43.5 million viewers. Both years saw incumbent vice presidents debate.
The most watch vice president debate was in 2008 when Biden debates Republican Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, with 69.9 million viewers tuning in mostly to see Palin, whose nomination sparked as much interest as Trump’s. Only 2000’s debate saw fewer viewers, where 28.5 million people watched Cheney and Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman debate.
Although CNN is attributing the lesser-known names of the two VP nominees as the reason for the lower ratings, it might also have to do with the fact that the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah had just ended. Originally, it appeared the debate might have hit 40 million viewers, but Americans tuned out in the last half hour mostly because of of the bickering of the nominees to the objections of moderator CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano, especially Kaine’s constant interruptions.