Final debate before Iowa caucuses scores 7.8 million viewers

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More than 7.8 million people tuned in for Tuesday night’s Democratic debate on CNN, according to Nielsen TV ratings and digital streaming data.

The vast majority of those viewers — about 7.4 million — watched it on cable television. Nielsen ratings are an average of minute-by-minute viewership over time. Applying the same method to CNN Digital, an average of 467,000 people streamed the debate on and other platforms, according to a CNN spokesperson.

The viewership totals show solid, but not off-the-charts, interest in the Democratic primary process. Tuesday’s debate was the final face-to-face gathering of the candidates before the Iowa caucuses on February 3.

The face-off, the seventh of the protracted primary season, put an end to the trend of ratings decline for Democratic debates. Last summer and fall, several debates topped more than 10 million viewers each. But the novelty factor wore off. A debate co-sponsored by CNN and The New York Times averaged 8.5 million viewers in October.

In November, a Democratic debate on MSNBC dipped to 6.6 million. Then in December a PBS “NewsHour” and Politico debate, which was simulcast by CNN, averaged 6.2 million across PBS and CNN combined. Analysts said news coverage of the impeachment of President Trump partly eclipsed those two events.

The next debate will take place on February 7, in between the Iowa caucuses and the February 11 New Hampshire primary, and will be co-sponsored by ABC, WMUR and Apple News.

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