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Sixth Democratic Debate Draws 6 Million Viewers, Lowest Figure in Current Cycle

Variety logo Variety 12/20/2019 Will Thorne
Bernie Sanders et al. in a red suit © Chris Carlson/AP/Shutterstock

Last night’s Democratic debate, which inevitably dealt with the recent impeachment of President Donald Trump, drew just over 6 million total viewers for PBS and Politico, according to Nielsen figures. Topics such as the economy, climate change, racism, Afghanistan, and taxing the wealthy were also on the agenda.

That total, which counts the PBS broadcast and the simulcast on CNN and CNN en Español, makes it the least watched debate so far in the current cycle, only just behind the previous MSNBC debate which drew 6.5 million. Last night’s squaring off reached more than 2 million viewers across PBS stations nationwide, and was seen on CNN by just over 4 million people.

Per PBS, the debate live streams across PBS NewsHour’s, Politico’s, PBS’s, and CNN’s digital and social platforms totaled more than 8.4 million viewers.

None of the Democratic debates thus far in this cycle have come near to the 24 million viewership figure posted by Donald Trump’s first debate on Fox News in August of 2015. The most watched debate from this cycle to date was the very first on NBC which drew 15.3 million total viewers, while the Democratic debate record to beat is the 15.7 million who tuned in for the CNN debate from the 2016 election cycle between Bernie Sanders and eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.

Only seven candidates took to the stage last night, after double digit numbers in previous debates. The seven who qualified were former vice president Joe Biden; Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg; Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar; Vermont senator Bernie Sanders; California billionaire Tom Steyer; Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Last night’s debate was moderated by Judy Woodruff, Amna Nawaz, Yamiche Alcindor, and Tim Alberta.

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