Dec 7, 2023 - Business

4.1M people watch fourth Republican presidential debate

Photo by Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Viewership for the fourth GOP presidential primary debate continued to fall Wednesday, with just 4.1 million Americans watching live on TV.

Yes, but: While viewership was low compared to other debates, it marked a record for the fledgling cable news network NewsNation, which only launched in 2021.

By the numbers: The debate drew 1.6 million viewers Wednesday night on NewsNation and 2.5 million viewers on its sister channel, The CW Network, per Nielsen ratings. The CW Network typically airs entertainment content but has wide distribution.

  • The debate was moderated by NewsNation's Elizabeth Vargas, former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and The Washington Free Beacon's Eliana Johnson.

Catch up quick: The first three Republican primary debates of this cycle have all seen viewership lag compared to the 2016 presidential cycle, in which then-candidate Donald Trump commanded massive viewership from the debate stage.

  • The first Republican primary debate of this cycle was watched by 12.8 million on Fox News and Fox Business network.
  • The second was watched by 9.5 million people across Fox News, Fox Business and Univision.
  • The third attracted just 7.5 million on NBC, Peacock and NBC-owned digital platforms.

The big picture: Lagging viewership underscores the diminishing power of primary debates in shaping the presidential race in the digital era.

  • Only four candidates appeared on the stage for the latest debate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
  • Noticeably absent from all four debates was Trump, who remains the frontrunner in the primary race and also held counter-programming during the first three. Moderators regardless pressed the other hopefuls Wednesday about the former president.

What's next: CNN will host two GOP presidential debates in Iowa and New Hampshire on Jan. 10 and Jan. 21, respectively, the network said Thursday.

Go deeper: Christie unleashed, knives out for Haley: 4 takeaways from the GOP debate

Go deeper