Historical TV Ratings For Presidential Debates
1960-2008 Presidential Campaigns
How many people watch presidential debates on television?
This table shows how many US household televisions were tuned in to key presidential debates from 1960 to 2008.
The TV rating is composed of two parts: the absolute number of households with TVs tuned in as well as the relative number ... the number of households watching as a percentage of total US households. The importance of relative comparison cannot be overestimated.
From 1960 until 1988, the debates were covered by the three networks: ABC, CBS, NBC. In 1992 and 1992, PBS also televised the debates. In 2000 and 2004, the debates ran on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX. Since 1996, some networks pre-empted debates for baseball playoffs.