No Trump, Lower Views: Republican Debate Viewership Hits Rock Bottom — Here's How Many People Watched Second Face-Off

Zinger Key Points
  • Republican primary debates have posted lower viewership in 2023 without Trump participating.
  • A look at the most watched and least watched debates since Trump began running for president.

Former President Donald Trump maintains a strong lead over his Republican competition in most national polls ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Maintaining a commanding position, Trump decided to skip the first two Republican primary debates, a move that may have hurt Fox Corporation FOXFOXA, who had the rights.

What Happened: Media company Fox landed the rights to broadcast the first two debates, with Rumble Inc RUM also landing streaming rights for both Republican events.

Although the rights to the debates are usually highly sought after, with voters eagerly tuning in to hear from the candidates, Trump’s absence might have diminished the event's usual impact on both viewers and potential advertisers.

Wednesday’s second Republican primary debate was watched by 9.3 million people, according to Nielsen ratings, as shared by NBC.

This marks a significant drop from the 12.8 million viewers that tuned into the first Republican primary debate earlier this year. Overall, viewership for the second debate was down 27% from the first debate. In the 2016 election cycle, the viewership decline from the first to second debates was 4%.

The total is also the lowest television viewership for a Republican presidential debate since Trump became a candidate for the party.

According to the report, the most watched Republican debate since Trump entered the race were:

  • Aug. 6, 2015: Fox News, 24.0 million
  • Sept. 16, 2015: CNN, 23.0 million
  • Dec. 15, 2015: CNN, 18.0 million

Trump skipped one debate in the 2016 election. Counting that debate and the two from this election cycle, primary debates that don’t include Trump have posted some of the worst viewership numbers.

  • Aug. 23, 2023: Fox, 12.8 million (ranks 10th of 14)
  • Jan. 28, 2016: Fox, 12.5 million (ranks 11th of 14)
  • Sept. 27, 2023: Fox, 9.3 million (ranks 14th of 14)

Related Link: Do Republicans Care About The Debates Without Trump?

Why It’s Important: The viewership figures include only television numbers and don’t count streaming. The first and second debates were both available on Rumble and on Fox Nation. 

Fox said that 200,000 viewers streamed the second debate on their platforms.


A third debate is scheduled for November, and Trump is reported to be skipping the event due to strong poll numbers once again.

No media partner has been selected, and the advance knowledge of Trump's absence might result in diminished interest.

Trump has had a negative relationship with Fox for years, which was among the reasons he chose to avoid the first two debates.

The former president has also attempted to counter the debate broadcasts during both of this year's primary debates with an interview with Tucker Carlson airing on X and a speech in Detroit regarding the UAW strikes. 

For Fox, the viewership figures aren’t the biggest number that matters, as the company may have locked in strong interest from advertisers and strong commercial cost rates ahead of each of the first two debates.

Read Next: GOP Presidential Contenders Were Actually Asked To Play Vote Off The Island In Fiery Primary Debate 

Photo: Shutterstock

Market News and Data brought to you by Benzinga APIs
Posted In: PoliticsSmall CapGeneral2016 Election2024 election2024 Presidential ElectionDonald TrumpFox BusinessFox NewsRepublican Debate
Benzinga simplifies the market for smarter investing

Trade confidently with insights and alerts from analyst ratings, free reports and breaking news that affects the stocks you care about.

Join Now: Free!