An estimated 73.1 million people watched the first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden on TV on Tuesday, and the overwhelming majority watched until the end, according to Nielsen.
That number doesn’t include people who streamed the debate online or people who listened to the debate on the radio.
Viewership was down significantly from the first debate in 2016, when 84 million people tuned in to watch the first encounter between Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Media coverage of the debate and online responses from viewers show broad dissatisfaction with Trump and Biden’s first meeting, primarily due to Trump’s constant interruptions and lies, his refusal to denounce white supremacists, and moderator Chris Wallace’s inability to corral the unwieldy discussion.
In response, the commission in charge of coordinating presidential debates announced on Wednesday that it is considering allowing moderators in upcoming debates to cut a participant’s microphone if they continually interrupt their opponent, as Trump did.
But despite the widespread distaste for the way the debate was conducted, Nielsen found that viewership remained consistent throughout the night, meaning virtually all viewers continued watching to the end — or, at least, that those who changed the channel were replaced by newcomers.
Tuesday’s debate was the first of four total debates being held before the Nov. 3 election. Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris will debate Vice President Mike Pence in Salt Lake City on Oct. 7. Trump and Biden will meet again in Miami on Oct. 15 and, finally, on Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.
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