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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Breaking Point in the Democractic Race: 26 Million Viewers

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Hillary Clinton was far ahead in the presidential race in the days and weeks leading up to the second presidential debate, when she lost ground to Donald Trump in early voting states and in national polling, and the race was closer than some expected.

But TV ratings for the second debate showed how far the race has fallen.

From its 9 p.m. start, the town hall debate between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump averaged just over 27 million viewers, down almost 9 million viewers from the first debate. From 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., the debate averaged 25.4 million viewers, down almost 10 million from the first debate. The first debate between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton averaged 43.1 million viewers.

So if we assume that most people who watched the debate stayed around to see the second one, the result was a massive decline in viewership from the first.

For comparison, a week ago, “Saturday Night Live” was the top-rated show of the week in viewership (14.12 million). NBC, for that matter, had five of the top 10 shows. ABC’s “Modern Family” was second (13.43 million), and “How to Get Away with Murder” (12.83 million) and “The Goldbergs” (11.16 million) were also in the top 10. Those three shows averaged 12.28 million viewers or more than the town hall debate did from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The nightly ratings race is often highly volatile. In 2012, “SNL” was in third place. Here are the networks’ averages:

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