Sixty-one percent of all U.S. households watched at least one of the two 2008 election debates aired so far, according to a new analysis released Monday by Nielsen.
On average, 41% of all homes watched the V.P. debate last Thursday — up one-third from the first presidential debate the previous Friday night, which reached an average of 31% of all households.
Of all households, 39% watched neither debate, while 30.3% tuned in to both. 11.2% of all homes tuned in to the presidential debate only, and 19.5% tuned in to just the V.P. debate.
Both debates drew audiences made up mostly of white viewers with higher levels of income ($100,000+) and education (4+ years of college).
Older viewers (age 55+) made up the largest portion of the TV audiences for both debates (42% – 46%). However, the Biden-Palin V.P. debate (median age: 52) drew a slightly larger portion of younger viewers than the first Obama-McCain debate (median age: 54).
Homes headed by African Americans made up a larger portion of the presidential debate audience (14.0%) than the V.P. debate audience (12.3%). African American homes normally account for 12.2% of all U.S. TV households.
Overall, Hispanic viewers were less likely to watch the debates. Hispanic households, which account for 11.1% of all TV households in the U.S., made up just 6.3% to 6.5% of the combined audience for the two debates.
A closer look at the minute-by-minute ratings for both debates reveals few peaks or drop-offs in household viewing, which remained steady throughout both the telecasts.