The ratings for the second Republican presidential debate saw a significant drop compared to the first, attracting fewer than 10 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. The debate featured seven GOP presidential hopefuls discussing various issues, including the border crisis and the economic state of the country under President Joe Biden. Of the 9.5 million viewers, 6.7 million tuned in to Fox News, 1.8 million to Fox Business, and 813,000 to Univision.
These numbers represented a 25% decrease in viewership compared to the 12.8 million who watched the first GOP primary debate. Furthermore, the viewership for this debate was substantially lower than the GOP presidential debates in 2015, with the first debate in summer 2015 hosted by Fox News attracting nearly 24 million viewers and the second, hosted by CNN, drawing 22.9 million viewers.
Despite the decline in viewership, the debate still ranked as the most-watched cable or network television program on that Wednesday. This posed a challenge for Republican hopefuls like Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and Tim Scott, who aimed to secure a breakout moment in the debate, potentially allowing them to catch up to former President Donald Trump, the current leader in the polls.
Trump, who has thus far declined to participate in the debates, was mentioned during the event when former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie humorously referred to him as “Donald Duck.” However, the debate itself received criticism from conservative commentators for not addressing issues and questions that resonate with Republican voters. Ben Shapiro, Editor Emeritus of the Daily Wire, characterized the debate as a “s**t show” and provided quick grades for the candidates, with DeSantis and Haley receiving relatively favorable assessments.
Independent journalist Megyn Kelly also criticized the debate, noting poor lighting, uninspiring questions, and other issues affecting the overall presentation of the event.