VP debate draws 70 million viewers

Good for you America! This is great news!

They may be the undercard on the ticket, but Sarah Palin and Joe Biden drew far more viewers for their bout than their running mates did for theirs last week, the largest-ever audience for a vice presidential debate and the second-largest for any debate.

Nielsen Media Research reported yesterday that about 69.9 million people watched Thursday night’s debate, compared with about 52.4 million who saw John McCain and Barack Obama go at it Sept. 26. “Although scheduling the debate on a Thursday was obviously a factor in attracting more viewers than the presidential debate last Friday, public curiosity about Sarah Palin clearly drove these higher ratings,” Nielsen said.

The viewership figure equaled the second George H. W. Bush-Bill Clinton-Ross Perot presidential debate in 1992, and was exceeded only by the Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan debate in 1980 that drew 80.6 million viewers. The audience smashed the previous record for most-watched vice presidential face-off: Bush vs. Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 with 56.7 million viewers.

The 2004 version between Dick Cheney and John Edwards, for comparison, drew 43.6 million.

PBS, which does its ratings separately, said an estimated 3.5 million viewers watched its debate coverage, compared with 2.6 million last week.

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