Will the Final Trump-Biden Debate Set New Ratings Records?

Tony Maglio
·1-min read

Political drama is perhaps the highest it has ever been, but don’t assume that will mean record TV ratings when Donald Trump and Joe Biden face off Thursday for their final presidential debate of 2020. The first Trump-Biden debate drew 73.1 million viewers late last month, good for third most viewed of all time. (Historically speaking, the debate cycles with high levels of public interest tend to peak with the candidates’ first face-off.) The record holder came four years ago, when Trump and Hillary Clinton scored 84 million total viewers. While that huge sum topped 1980’s Jimmy Carter vs. Ronald Reagan debate by 3.4 million viewers — though Trump-Clinton 1 also ran on 13 networks to Carter-Reagan’s three. (Plus, there are also about 100 million more people in the United States these days.) Presently, there are even more platforms and devices measured by Nielsen: Last month’s Trump vs. Biden debate ran on 16 counted platforms. It is reasonable to assume the same platforms will carry tonight’s second meeting. Out-of-home viewing is also now recorded by Nielsen, but there’s not a whole heck of a lot of that during a pandemic — or at least, there shouldn’t be. Before CNN joined...

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