The Democrats Debate: The Ratings for All Eleven 2020 Democratic Presidential Debates

It's 2020, and while that means many things, perhaps most notable is that the United States is holding an election this year to see who will be our president for the next four years. President Donald Trump, a Republican businessman from Florida, is running for re-election. The Democratic Party has had the largest field in history as they attempt to find the perfect candidate to defeat him. One of the most important ways to try to pick out which candidate is just right is through debates, and there's been a ton of interest in them during this cycle. A record twenty-three candidates have hit the debate stage at some point in 2020. Let's take a walk though all eleven held so far to see how the ratings of each stack up to the rest.

Debate One, Night One - Wednesday, June 26
 The first Democratic debate of the 2020 cycle.
 was also one of the more unusual ones. With a
 field of candidates so large and relatively little
 requirements for qualifying, twenty candidates
 qualified this time around. This led to the first
 debate being split into two nights. Broadcast
 from Florida, the first night of the first debate
 featured candidates considered to be in the "top
 tier" such as Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy
 Klobuchar and Cory Booker and Representatives Beto O'Rourke (all polling above 3% at the time), as well as many candidates polling around 1% such as Representatives Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, and Tim Ryan and Governor Jay Inslee. Perhaps it was the fact that most of the perceived frontrunners weren't on the stage until the next night, but the debates got off to a solid but not massive start with a 2.6 in the 18-49 demo on NBC and MSNBC combined and 14.5 million viewers, easily leading the night.

Debate One, Night Two - Thursday, June 27
In night two of the first debate, frontrunners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris all made their ways to the stage. These four candidates were beating every candidate in the polls from night one aside from Senator Warren. The rest of the group was filled with candidates polling lower, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, author Marianne Williamson, and businessman Andrew Yang. The higher-profile field led to a much higher 3.1 in the 18-49s and 17.25 million viewers, up nearly three million from the first night and again leading the night by a wide margin.

Debate Two, Night One - Tuesday, July 30
The Democrats moved to cable for debate two, with new matchups for another two-part debate, this time from Michigan. The qualifications for the debate were the same as the first, and two new candidates, Montana Governor Steve Bullock and one-time Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, met some form of qualification. Only Bullock would actually be invited to debate due to an unprecedented twenty-one qualifying candidates. The first night featured a better lineup than night one of the previous debate, featuring frontrunners Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, as well as high-profile candidates Beto O'Rourke and Amy Klobuchar. The move to cable caused a noticeable drop in in the demo and in viewership, with a 1.65 in 18-49 and 8.64 million viewers. Still a strong result, especially for CNN which has recently called a 0.2 a good result for a night without an election on it, but clearly a decline.

Debate Two, Night Two - Wednesday, July 31
This time around, it was the second night of the
debate that featured less big names. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the #1 and #4 candidate  nationally at that time, debated six candidates  polling at 2% or less, including Kirsten  Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio and  Jay Inslee in their final debate appearances.  Even with some smaller names dominating the  stage, night two was again up from the previous  night, taking in a 1.92 in the 18-49s and cracking 10.72 million viewers. It was easily the top show of the night, beating the #1 show on broadcast (Big Brother) by eight tenths.

Debate Three - Thursday, September 12
 After the second debates, the DNC made it far harder to qualify for debates, requiring candidates to hit both polling requirements  (2% in four polls) and fundraising requirements (130,000 unique donors). This  led to half of the candidates who previously  qualified, including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Marianne Williamson, who hit the fundraising requirement but not the polling threshold, not making it into the debate. Gabbard would later qualify for the next two debates (Williamson would not, unfortunately for fans of her many gif-worthy moments). It was also the final debate to not compete against broadcast TV's in-season programming. The next time the Democrats would debate, the debate would air against broadcast TV's full fall lineup. This time, as the debate moved to ABC and broadcast live from Houston, more people tuned in than debate two. With a 2.1 in the 18-49 demo and 12.93 million viewers, the debate easily topped broadcast and took second for the night, behind Thursday Night Football.

Debate Four - Tuesday, October 15
CNN took the debate again this month, and what a debate it was. Welcoming businessman Tom Steyer to the stage for the first time and welcoming Rep. Gabbard back, while not kicking anyone out from debate three, the debate set a record for the largest debate in the history of US presidential elections (the 2016 Republicans previously held that record). It would be the final debate for Beto O'Rourke, who despite once being seen as a major contender had begun to drop, partly due to his performances in the debates, which many saw as lacking. Julian Castro would also not see another debate, failing to qualify for the rest of the debates while his candidacy was still active. Elizabeth Warren dominated the Ohio-set debate, speaking for a full six minutes longer than any other candidate. Whether due to the increased competition or declining interest, this became the lowest-rated debate at the time with a 1.5 in the 18-49 demo and 8.55 million viewers, tying This Is Us to become the #1 show of the night.

Debate Five - Wednesday, November 20
 The first and only debate to be broadcast solely
 on MSNBC, debate number five dropped two
 candidates and had a somewhat-reasonable ten
 candidates on-stage as they broadcast from
 Atlanta.   In one of the shorter of the 2020
 debates, Elizabeth Warren again had the most
 speaking time, though Pete Buttigieg and Joe
 Biden both spoke a similar amount of time.
 Three candidates said "bye forever" after this
 debate, with Kamala Harris dropping out after
 the debate and Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard (who is still running!) both failing to ever qualify for further debates. Facing stiffer competition than ever before, the debate dropped by multiple tenths to another new low, with a 1.08 in the 18-49 demo and 6.6 million viewers. That was only enough to give it fifth place for the night, behind The Masked Singer, Survivor, and two of the One Chicago series.

Debate Six - Thursday, December 19
It's the holiday season by now, and the Democrats headed to Los Angeles to debate for the sixth time. It was by far the smallest debate to-date, with "only" seven candidates on the stage, six of whom had perfect attendance at the debates at this point. PBS took over the debate this time, with a simulcast on CNN. It was a debate filled with controversy ahead of time, as the DNC previously canceled its plans to hold the debate at UCLA over a labor dispute. A month later, all seven qualifying candidates announced that they would boycott the debate in solidarity with union workers at Loyola Marymount University, the new host of the debate. That dispute was cleared up days ahead of the debate. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also announced that she would skip the debate before the qualification period ended. She didn't have to worry about skipping out, however, as she didn't qualify for the debate. Senators Sanders, Klobuchar and Warren and Mayor Buttigieg all spoke for north of 19 minutes this time around, with the remaining three candidates speaking for notably shorter amounts. Ratings for this debate aren't fully reported due to it airing on PBS, but the CNN broadcast gathered a 0.65 in the 18-49 ratings, and the PBS and CNN airings together drew 6.17 million viewers, a new low.

Debate Seven - Tuesday, January 15
 Weeks ahead of the state's all-important, first-
 in-the-nation, and this year, disastrous, caucus,
 the leading Democrats descended on Iowa to
 debate a seventh time. It was the first debate
 actually held in 2020, and once again, a
 candidate who had previously qualified
 dropped off the stage. Andrew Yang failed to
 make it into the debates, a controversial
 exclusion due to it leaving only white
 candidates on the debate stage. The debate was
 most notable for a confrontation between longtime allies Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Interest in the debate was on the rise, with a 1.35 in the 18-49 ratings and 7.36 million viewers, taking third place for the night in the most-recent CNN debate.

Debate Eight - Friday, February 7
In the first debate to take place after voting, the previous six debaters all returned, joined by Andrew Yang in what would be his final debate. ABC held the debate for the second time from the crucial early-voting state of New Hampshire, the first state in the nation to hold a primary. Senator Amy Klobuchar's performance in the debate was widely praised, leading to online supporters dubbing it the start of her "Klobmentum." It's hard to know for sure, but her performance here may have been what boosted her to 20% in the New Hampshire primary held days later. Even with the majority of attention going to Klobuchar, candidates Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg all had more time to speak than she did. Despite a move from cable to broadcast, the Friday night broadcast didn't exactly help, and the debate was narrowly down to a 1.3 in the 18-49s, but up in viewers with 7.87 million tuning in, easily leading the night.

Debate Nine - Wednesday, February 19
In the most recent debate of the cycle, all eyes were on ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire that's been running non-stop ads had never before made the debate stage despite running since November. DNC debate qualification requirements left Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign, unable to qualify previously. The rules were later changed, which allowed Bloomberg, a top contender in nationwide polls, to debate. The rest of the candidates came after him hard in an attempt to stop his growth in the polls ahead of Super Tuesday, where he'll hope to gather a large percentage of delegates. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, both standouts at previous debates and two of the only three women left in the race, had the most time to speak in a debate filled with clashes and arguments, while Bloomberg had the least time. The impact that the debate had on the future of the race is yet to be seen, but one thing is sure: it was a massive debate. Drawing the highest ratings of any 2020 debate, the Nevada-set debate drew a massive 3.3 in the 18-49s and 19.69 million viewers on NBC and MSNBC, making it by far the night's top program and putting it two tenths ahead of the first debate, and making it the most-watched Democratic debate of all-time.

Debate Ten - Tuesday, February 25
The Democrats headed to South Carolina for the tenth debate tonight, where seven candidates qualified to be on the stage and CBS hosted for the first time. It was the same group as the prior debate, plus Tom Steyer, who returned to the stage. The debate was heavily criticized for its content, with the candidates attacking one another, seemingly more than any prior debate. Bernie Sanders, by now the frontrunner, had the most speaking time and arguably the most attention on him. Like the previous debate, this one drew more interest than most debates, being out-rated by only two others with a 2.5 in the 18-49 demo and 15.34 million viewers.

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »