One week after ratings soared to a 2016 high with an insult-ridden Republican debate on Fox News Channel, viewership fell off about 30% for CNN’s rather civil get-together last night.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, an average audience of 11.85 million (including 3.67 million in the news demo of adults 25-54) watched the CNN Republican Debate from 9-11 p.m. ET. CNN figures to stand as Thursday’s most-watched network (cable or broadcast), but last night’s debate from Miami ranks as the second smallest of seven GOP gatherings in 2016. (It fares better on the rankings list among adults 25-54, with last night’s total third best of the year).

Ratings for the Republican debates continue to tower above those for the Democrats, with Thursday’s audience more than double that for the previous night’s Democratic debate on Univision and CNN (a combined 5.954 million). Year-to-date, the Republicans have averaged about 13 million viewers for their seven debates, or nearly double what the Democrats have averaged 6.82 million for their five events.

According to Nielsen Social, 7.8 million people in the U.S. saw one or more of 1.7 million tweets about the “CNN Republican Debate” on Thursday, down from 8.7 million people and 2.3 million tweets for last week’s Fox News Republican Debate. The most tweeted minute last night came about halfway through the debate when 11,800 tweets were sent after Marco Rubio and Donald Trump discussed radical Islamism.

Digitally, live streams across all platforms (Web, App, Apple TV and Roku) reached 1.9 million, according to CNN. Consumption of the event peaked at 10 p.m. when CNN delivered 623,000 concurrent live streams of the debate across its digital products.


Thursday’s debate, which garnered acclaim for its substance, was moderated by CNN anchor and Chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper. Questioners included CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, Washington Times political correspondent Stephen Dinan and Salem Radio host Hugh Hewitt.