Biden Outpaces Trump In Town Hall Television Viewership, Nielsen Ratings Show

Topline

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s ABC town hall bested President Donald Trump’s overlapping NBC town hall in television viewership after a push by Biden’s supporters to boost his ratings, though fewer eyeballs may be a net benefit for Trump.

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Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden participates in an ABC News … [+] town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on October 15, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

Biden’s town hall, which was calmer and generated fewer headlines than Trump’s, nonetheless averaged 13.9 million viewers on ABC, according to CNN.

Trump’s event got 10.6 million viewers on NBC, in addition to 1.74 million on MSNBC and 671,000 on CNBC for a total of 13 million, falling nearly 1 million viewers short of Biden.

The result comes after a movement flared up among Democrats to “boycott” NBC’s coverage of the bombastic yet entertaining president, with celebrities urging their followers to watch Biden and bulk up his numbers.

ABC News staffers “privately admitted their surprise” when initial ratings showed Biden getting 12.7 million viewers, reported CNN’s Brian Stelter, who called Biden’s victory in the ratings battle “a result virtually no one in the TV business expected.”

“We’re gonna have a much bigger audience than Joe” Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller had predicted, even after Biden garnered 6.7 million viewers for his NBC town hall last week compared to the 3.8 million viewers for Trump’s ABC town hall last month.

Forbes has reached out to the Trump and Biden campaigns for comment.

Key Background

A long-time television personality, Trump has habitually measured success by ratings and touted his ability to draw numbers for any given program on which he appears. After the first presidential debate in September, Trump boasted, “HIGHEST CABLE TELEVISION RATINGS OF ALL TIME. SECOND HIGHEST OVERALL TELEVISION RATINGS OF ALL TIME,” adding, “Some day these Fake Media Companies are going to miss me, very badly!!!”

Crucial Quote

More exposure may not necessarily translate to more votes for Trump, however. “My group of undecided voters say that the more Trump speaks, the worse he looks,” tweeted conservative pollster Frank Luntz, who ran a focus groups for both events.

Big Number

2.94 million. That’s how many views ABC’s YouTube livestream of Biden’s town hall received. NBC’s livestream of Trump’s town hall got just over 2 million views, but CNBC’s two additional livestreams garnered an additional 2.8 million views. 

What To Watch For

The town halls came about after the second presidential debate was canceled. Biden and Trump will meet in Nashville, Tennessee, for a final debate next Thursday, Oct. 22, moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.

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