The second GOP presidential primary debate drew 9.5 million viewers, marking a 25 percent drop from the first debate last month when 12.8 million watched.
Fox’s second primary debate drew the lowest viewership for any GOP presidential debate since 2015, when the presence of former President Donald Trump boosted ratings to record highs.
The audience for Wednesday’s debate was spread across three outlets: Fox News (6.7 million), Fox Business (1.8 million), and Univision (813,000).
By comparison, when Fox aired the 2015 debate, the broadcast pulled nearly 24 million viewers, which made the event the highest rated presidential primary debate ever, ranked it among the most-watched event in cable television history.
“Without Mr. Trump this primary season, the networks and the Republican National Committee are in a difficult spot,” The New York Times reports. “Television executives will be faced with deciding whether it’s worth the cost to produce an event that is drawing relatively tepid interest and is, for the moment, of questionable significance given Mr. Trump’s dominance in the polls.”
During both of the first two debates, Trump — who has vowed to skip the debates, given his 30- to 40-point lead over challengers — has effectively engaged in counter-programming.
During the first debate, Trump sat down for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson for a long-format interview, which was shown on Carlson’s page on the social media platform X.
Within 12 hours, the interview racked up more than 200 million views, in one of the strongest signs yet that independent content posted to social media may prove to be a huge disruptor to the corporate media business model.
During the second debate, Trump joined a crowd of union workers in Clinton Township, Michigan, who had recently participated in a strike.
Trump tore into President Joe Biden’s aggressive push to transition the U.S. auto industry to electric vehicles.
“Biden’s mandate isn’t a government regulation. It’s a government assassination of your jobs and of your industry. The auto industry is being assassinated, and it makes no difference what you get,” Trump told those attending the speech. “I don’t care what you get in the next two weeks or three weeks or five weeks, they’re gonna be closing up and they’re going to be building those cars in China and other places. It’s a hit job on Michigan and on Detroit.”
Within hours of the second debate, the Trump campaign issued a statement telling the Republican National Committee (RNC) it should cancel all future debates this election season.