As with most elections, this year’s candidates understand the importance of a strong presence on television as Election Day gets closer. Through convention coverage,
interviews, and press conferences, both candidates have taken advantage of the reach of television when trying to connect with voters. However, it is during the televised presidential debates that candidates can reach the largest audiences. In a recent article, Nielsen ranks past presidential debates with the most viewers.
Of the ten debates with the largest viewership numbers, six of them occurred within the last three election years, with the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney in the 2012 election holding the number one spot. Of the most watched debates, President Obama has appeared in five of them, with 46.2 million households turning in to watch his first debate with Romney.
Comparatively, the least watched presidential debate was the 1984 debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, with 39.1 million households tuning in. Until the 2012 election, the most watched presidential debate was the 1980 debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan with 45.8 million households tuning in.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see how many viewers tune in to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off next month. Since the first televised debate in 1960, television remains one of the most effective ways to reach an audience.