More than 157 Million Viewers Have Watched the GOP Debates

By Chris Ariens 

Tonight will see the 11th GOP debate of the 2016 cycle, the third for Fox News.

As frontrunner Donald Trump points out in a Time cover story this week, “it’s the ratings” that give a presidential candidate “the power.”

Trump wielded that power in late January, when he pulled out of the Fox News debate. It would be the second lowest-rated debate of this cycle. (Fox News can also claim the most-watched debate, in fact the most-watched cable TV program ever, with the first debate on Aug. 6.)


We took a look back at the debate ratings the last time the GOP candidates got together in their run for the White House. Between May 5, 2011 and Feb. 22, 2012, there were 20 GOP debates across 8 networks. All in, those debates drew 87,400,000 viewers (not including Bloomberg because it is not publicly rated.)

As for, the 2016 primary debates–the 10 so far–157,377,000 have watched across 7 networks: almost twice as many people watching half as many debates. (GOP debates were not held on Bloomberg, NBC or MSNBC this year, while FBN and Telemundo were added.)

Recently, Trump has been talking about how his campaign has brought in new Republican voters. Likewise, for the TV networks, Trump has brought in millions of new viewers. As Sen. Marco Rubio pointed out on Face the Nation last Sunday, “Many in the press want [Trump] to be the nominee. They think it’s going to be good for ratings.”

And so far, it has.