Nielsen viewing data for the second Republican presidential primary debate of the 2024 campaign has arrived, and as expected, ratings are down substantially from the first debate.
The two-hour live event (9-11 p.m. ET) on Wednesday, September 27, 2023 drew an average of 9.5 million total viewers across Fox News Media and Univision linear and streaming news platforms. Out of the 9.5 million, 9.32 million watched the proceedings across the three linear TV networks (FNC, FBN, Univision); and out of that 9.32 million figure, just 1.89 million hail from the Adults 25-54 demo–the demo TV news advertisers covet.
Breaking it down by network, Fox Business Network, a co-host of the debate, averaged 1.82 million total viewers and 411,000 A25-54 viewers. Univision, the other debate co-host, drew an average of 813,000 total viewers and 265,000 A25-54 viewers. Fox News Channel, which simulcast the debate, delivered 6.69 million total viewers and 1.21 million A25-54 viewers from 9-11 p.m. ET.
On the digital front, according to Adobe Analytics, last night’s debate drove an average minute audience of nearly 200,000 between 9-11 p.m. ET.
Wednesday night’s debate was held in Simi Valley, Calif., and co-moderated by Fox Business host Stuart Varney, Fox News anchor Dana Perino and Noticiero Univision anchor Ilia Calderón. Participants included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor and ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.
For comparison purposes, 12.8 million people watched the first debate of the 2024 election cycle across Fox News Media linear and streaming platforms on August 23 (11.09 million on Fox News, 1.7 million on FBN) — the most-watched non-sports telecast of 2023 to-date.
That means there was about a -27% drop off in total viewers from the first debate to the second debate. That said, the 9.32/9.5 million total is larger than roughly 60% of the presidential primary debates that have aired since the 2016 presidential election cycle.
Speaking of second debates, the second Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2020 presidential election cycle (a two-night affair hosted by and televised on CNN) averaged 9.15 million total linear viewers, per Nielsen data. The first night (July 30, 2019) drew an average of 8.2 million total viewers, and the second night (July 31, 2019) drew an average of 10.1 million total viewers watching on CNN.
Fox News still holds the presidential primary debate viewership record: 24 million watched the Republicans battle it out in Aug. 2015. The first GOP debate of the 2016 election cycle, starring then reality TV show host Donald Trump, stands as the most-watched non-sports cable program of all time, and Fox News’s most-watched program ever.
Additionally, according to data from Samba TV, viewership indexes compared to the U.S. overall were: Florida +41%, Iowa +21%, South Carolina +20%, Arizona +13%, Nevada +6%, New Hampshire -7%, North Carolina -12%, Georgia -19%.
The states that over-indexed the highest on last night’s debate viewership were Republican voting-heavy states Wyoming and North Dakota, as well as Florida (+47%, + 42%, and +41%, respectively), while Democratic voting-heavy states Hawaii and Vermont under-indexed by the highest margins (-48% and -44%).