Primary presidential debates see record-breaking viewership
Monday, Feb. 29, 2016
Since day one, the 2016 campaign season’s presidential primary debates have seen some of the highest viewership in history. And viewers and experts say, they’re proving to be more entertainment than informative.
“It’s sort of become like a sporting event, like a football game. I want to make sure my team, my person wins, and I want to see how they do, so we tune in,” viewer Roxanne Weaver said.
Viewer and self-proclaimed political junkie Virgel Cain called it “bizarre-o land.”
“It’s kind of a cross section on the Republican side between world wide wrestling and a very, very bad reality show,” Cain said.
The first debate had 24 million viewers, eight times the three million viewers who watched the first primary debate in 2012, according to Nielsen data. And viewership numbers this year have surpassed nearly all of the 2008 primary debates, the last election cycle where both parties were selecting nominees.
Stan Barnes, a political consultant, said it goes beyond viewership and ratings. He said these debates, and this election, are historic.
“Going back to the very beginning of any broadcast, radio even, way back, 100 years ago, everybody’s on their best behavior. Everybody’s trying to look presidential. But Trump gets up there and just spitballs everything and insults everybody,” Barnes said. “All of a sudden everyone wants to see almost this train wreck.”
Barnes said the same reason more people are watching also causes concern.
“In my opinion, as a political consultant, we’d be so much better off as a voting electorate, if it wasn’t so juvenile,” Barnes explained. “The last debate it was really hard to see who’s going to actually be the president because no one’s acting like the president.”
Barnes said we’ll get a clearer picture of who the president could be tomorrow when 13 states and one territory cast their votes during Super Tuesday.
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