- 2012 Presidential Debates
- 3 Classic Presidential Debates in U.S. History
- Presidential Debate Moderators
More than 67 million viewers tuned in to watch the former Massachusetts governor appear in his first debate with President Barack Obama, according to the ratings and research firm Nielsen. That's an increase of 28 percent over the first presidential debate in 2008 between then U.S. Sen. Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee.
See also: Do Presidential Debates Really Matter?
The debate was broadcast on 11 networks. Nielsen estimated that nearly 67.2 million viewers tuned in to the Oct. 3 debate, compared to the 52.4 million who watched Obama and McCain duke it out in 2008. The largest segment of the population to tune in were those over 55 years of age; they represented nearly half of the viewership, nearly 31 million in all.
The viewership for the first Romney-Obama debate was the largest since President Jimmy Carter and Republican nominee Ronald Reagan squared off for their one and only debate in 1980. Nearly 81 million people tune in to watch that debate.
So what do all those numbers mean? How big is the viewership for the presidential debates?
Well, compared to, say, the number of people who watch Monday Night Football (22.8 million) or Dancing With the Stars (14.1 million), the number of people who tuned into the first debate this was indeed encouraging.
[Photo: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama exchange pleasantries at the first of three debates in 2012. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News]