First Republican Presidential Debate Draws 13 Million Viewers

First Republican Presidential Debate Draws 13 Million Viewers
Republican presidential candidates, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (L), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (2nd L), former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (3rd L), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (4th L), entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (4th R), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (3rd R), U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) (2nd R), and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R), are introduced during the first debate of the GOP primary season in Milwaukee, Wis., on Aug. 23, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Joseph Lord

The first Republican presidential debate drew 13 million viewers despite a boycott of the event by President Donald Trump.

The debate, hosted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by Fox News, featured eight presidential hopefuls including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

According to data relayed by Fox from Nielsen Media Research, the debate outperformed more than 70 percent of debates in the most recent presidential cycles.

The 13 million who viewed the debate across various platforms included roughly 2.8 million viewers aged 25 to 54.

Fox reported that the debate was the highest-rated non-sports cable telecast of the year in total viewers, exceeding the record set earlier by Paramount’s “Yellowstone,” which drew in 11.1 million viewers, including 2.4 million viewers aged 25 to 54.

The debate also surpassed viewers of ABC, CBS, and NBC broadcasts combined.

Notably absent from the event was President Trump, the far and away Republican frontrunner, who announced ahead of time that he would boycott the debate despite qualifying for it.

President Trump made the same decision ahead of the final GOP debate in Iowa in 2016, and was ultimately successful in his bid for the nomination, though he narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Former cable news superstar Tucker Carlson, who had a sudden public split with Fox News earlier this year for undisclosed reasons, hosted an interview with the former president that aired at the same time as the debate which featured tough questions on disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, the possibility of civil war, and the risk of his own assassination.
Former president Donald Trump speaks with Tucker Carlson in a pre-recorded interview aired on debate night on Aug. 23, 2023. (Tucker Carlson/X)
Former president Donald Trump speaks with Tucker Carlson in a pre-recorded interview aired on debate night on Aug. 23, 2023. (Tucker Carlson/X)
At the time of publication, that interview, uploaded to X by Mr. Carlson, has been seen by over 241 million people.

However, because of how views are counted on X, it is difficult to say how many people viewed all or most of the interview. For a video to count as “viewed” on the platform, it must take up at least half of the screen and play for a few seconds.

Thus, it’s difficult to compare the views on the interview with views of the debate.

In President Trump’s absence, a few contenders took center stage at the debate—most notably Mr. Ramaswamy, an underdog and defender of President Trump who has seen a rise in polling numbers in recent weeks.

Mr. Ramaswamy fielded attacks about his age and lack of political experience from Ms. Haley, Mr. Christie, and Vice President Pence.

According to Google Trends, Mr. Ramaswamy has garnered the most internet interest in the wake of the debate, exceeded only by President Trump.

Ms. Haley has also outperformed Mr. DeSantis by this metric in the aftermath of the debate.

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