Republican Presidential Primary Debate Draws Strong Viewership

by Warren Seah

The first Republican presidential primary debate, held on two Fox News television channels and its streaming service, garnered an impressive viewership of approximately 12.8 million people, even in the absence of lead contender Donald Trump.

The decision by Trump to counterprogram the debate by appearing in an online interview with Tucker Carlson did not seem to significantly impact the number of individuals interested in exploring the eight alternative candidates.

While this viewership is slightly over half of the 24 million who watched Trump’s first presidential debate in August 2015, it surpasses the January 2016 GOP candidates debate on Fox which Trump also skipped and attracted an audience of 12.5 million people.

Although former Fox host Carlson boasted about the anticipated larger audience for his streamed interview compared to the televised debate, and Trump claimed it surpassed the Super Bowl in terms of viewership, there is no reliable way to verify these statements.

X, the Social Media Company Formerly Known as Twitter

X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, has recently released some staggering statistics regarding the reach and engagement of a tweet featuring Carlson’s interview show. According to X, the tweet accumulated a whopping 236.7 million views. However, it’s important to note that this number includes instances where users merely scrolled past the tweet without actually opening it.

In other words, if someone scrolled past the tweet multiple times, each scroll counted as a separate view. So, even if you happened to scroll by the post a dozen times, those are counted as a dozen views.

While the public interaction numbers were relatively smaller in comparison, they are still noteworthy. The interview received approximately 55,000 comments, with about 200,000 individuals expressing their appreciation by liking it.

The Television Viewership Figures

Apart from the tweet’s reception on social media, it’s also crucial to take into account the television viewership figures. The debate was broadcast simultaneously on Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network, with estimated viewership figures fluctuating throughout the event.

Moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the two-hour debate initially skirted around the topic of Trump. However, approximately halfway through the debate, Baier acknowledged “the elephant not in the room” and briefly discussed Trump’s four criminal indictments.

Although there seemed to be some reluctance to delve further into the topic, these ten minutes of discussion were some of the debate’s most compelling and electric moments.

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