Viewers Tune Out, Voters Lose Out as DNC Buries Democratic Debate
The record low viewership of Saturday’s Democratic debate has voters, particularly Bernie Sanders supporters, once again castigating the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for what many believe is a blatant attempt to shield establishment candidate Hillary Clinton and, in turn, relinquish important political ground to the Republican candidates.
Saturday night’s CBS debate drew an audience of just 8.5 million viewers, 7 million less than the first Democratic debate last month, making it the lowest-rated primary debate this campaign season from either party, according to Nielsen ratings.
Given that Saturday’s are known for having the lowest weekly TV ratings—particularly among people 18-35 years old, a key Democratic voting bloc—the DNC is facing renewed criticism for its debate schedule, which critics say is a clear attempt to protect the Democratic frontrunner.
“Look, there was a clear intent to bury these debates to the benefit of Clinton,” a Democratic campaign official told Politico on Sunday. “And it is doing a disservice to the Democratic Party. The GOP is blowing out numbers—and we are protecting Hillary Clinton.”
In comparison, the last two Republican debates, which were held on smaller networks than CBS, saw over 13 million viewers. Meanwhile, the first two, hosted by CNN and Fox News respectively, each broke 20 million.
What’s more, the next two debates are also scheduled for potentially low-viewership weekends: the Saturday night before Christmas, and the Sunday night of the Martin Luther King Day weekend, during the National Football League playoffs.
“It’s not rocket science to schedule debates on incredibly inconvenient dates,” writes Vox‘s Alvin Chang, whose analysis of television viewership and debate schedules of past elections found that the DNC’s weekend-heavy debate agenda seems particularly tailored to minimize viewership.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT