Third GOP debate brought in lowest ratings yet

Third GOP debate brought in lowest ratings yet

The third Republican presidential primary debate only drew in about 7 million viewers, making it the least-watched debate of the election season this year.

The NBC News broadcast aired during primetime, between 8pm and 10pm on Wednesday, and delivered 6.8m television viewers, of which 1.3m were in the 25-54 age demographic favoured by advertisers, according to Nielsen Media Research. All told including streaming, NBC News said it attracted about 7.5 million viwers.

The viewership data does not include those who watched the event on streaming services or viewed clips on social media and video streaming sites like YouTube.

The second primary debate drew 9m viewers on the Fox Business Network last month. The first debate drew the largest audience, with 12.8m people tuning in to Fox News to watch.

It's no question that those numbers would have been notably higher had former President Donald Trump participated. Mr Trump has refused to join any of the debates, arguing that he is already far ahead in the polls and that participation would just provide his opponents with the opportunity to attack him directly.

Mr Trump may also be avoiding situations where he can be asked pointed questions as he is in the middle of numerous legal battles that would no doubt generate questions during the debates.

The debate was moderated by Lester Holt, Kristen Welker and Hugh Hewitt, who were praised for their direct questions and for navigating and controlling the sometimes insulting, sometimes sparring and argumentative natures of the assembled candidates.

The event occurred a day after Republicans took a walloping on Election Day, with numerous race outcomes offering a rebuke to a GOP bent on eliminating abortion rights and zeroing in on conspiracy-laden culture war issues.

Despite their prominence in the public eye, both the abortion topic and Mr Trump took a backseat for most of the evening. A battle over TikTok and China generated the evening's most tense moments, with all but Vivek Ramaswamy expressing their disdain with the social media app.

Mr Ramaswamy called former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley "Dick Cheney in three-inch heels" and a hypocrite for bashing TikTok, noting that her daughter uses the platform. Ms Haley took offense and told him to "leave my daughter out of your voice" before she dismissed him as "scum."

By the end of the night, Mr Trump — who was busy leading a rally in Florida — was still far ahead of his competitors in the polls, netting 43 per cent, while Ms Hayley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis were the next closest with 16 per cent each.