2016 Democratic Debate Ratings Rank Far Ahead of Most Primary Debates

If you’re a Democrat, this weekend’s debate gave you a lot to be proud of. Our candidates showed once again that it’s possible to have a spirited debate and draw clear differences while still showing respect for one another and for the voters. It was about as far as you could get from the small-tent, big circus reality show the Republican debates have turned into, where Donald Trump sets the tone and the others rush to try to say something just as outrageous — and just as wrong.

The enthusiasm for our candidates is reflected in our debate audiences:

  • Our first debate in Las Vegas, broadcast on CNN, brought in a record 15.8 million viewers, the sixth-biggest non-sport cable broadcast in U.S. history.
  • Our second debate in Des Moines, broadcast on CBS, earned a 6.1 rating for the network and brought in 8.5 million viewers — the fourth-largest Democratic debate audience in history.
  • This past Saturday’s debate on ABC earned a 6.0 rating for the network and brought in 7.8 million viewers, the sixth-largest Democratic debate audience in history.
  • For some historical context: our 2016 Democratic primary debate audiences are larger than the audiences for 58 out of 61 primary debates from 2008 and 2012. Only three debates at the height of the Clinton/Obama primary in 2008 scored higher. See for yourself:
View sources here

And for all of the hand-wringing over the Democrats’ debate schedule, the Republican National Committee scheduled their own network debates on weekend nights — just as we have — and their cable debates on weeknights — just as we have. In fact, the RNC’s New Hampshire debate is scheduled on the exact same day of the week with the exact same network partner at the exact same location as ours.

To be fair, the RNC debates have drawn larger audiences, the same way many drivers on the highway will rubberneck at a car crash. More eyeballs on Donald Trump’s racist and xenophobic antics, Ted Cruz’s extremism, Ben Carson’s lack of foreign policy knowledge, Marco Rubio’s opposition to abortion in all circumstances, and Chris Christie’s overcompensating bluster, is not necessarily a good thing for the GOP.

Here’s the bottom line: we don’t need a reality television star and a cast of obnoxious contestants waiting to be voted off in order to generate enthusiasm in our candidates and debates. We’re breaking records with viewers tuning in for a substantive discussion of the issues. Our candidates didn’t resort to fear mongering, they didn’t insult one another, and they actually were specific and showed they know how to keep America safe. They showed they understand how to ensure the economic security of the American people, something that didn’t even register in the GOP’s slug fest.

All-in-all, this campaign season has made me proud to be a Democrat, and we’re going to keep engaging voters on the issues that matter.