Last week’s dueling town halls delivered a more liberal audience to Joe Biden and a slightly more right-leaning cohort to President Trump, according to data from Samba TV.
Samba uses viewing of MSNBC as a stand in for more liberal and more Democratic viewers and viewing of Fox News Channel to identify more conservative and Republican viewers.
Both town halls generated larger audiences than their predecessors, with Biden’s second being seen by 6.9 million households on ABC, up 291% from his first town hall and Trump being observed by 6.3 million households, up 209%, on a variety of NBCUniversal outlets.
Samba said 2.9 million households watched at least five minutes of both the second Trump and second Biden town hall, even though they mostly aired at the same time.
In his second town hall, Biden lost a lot of heavy MSNBC viewers, but both he and Trump added some hardcore Fox News viewers, according to Dr. Jeffrey Silverman, director of data science and analytics at Samba TV.
The handful of viewers who watched all four town halls skewed toward heavy MSNBC viewers and medium Fox News viewers.
“In general, cable news viewership is up during October compared to earlier this year. Thus, there are likely more undecided or middle-of-the-road voters watching MSNBC and Fox News now,” said Silverman. “Or, put another way, the audiences of both of those networks have grown in October likely by attracting more Centrists who are potentially undecided. Beyond that, it's hard to use the town hall or debate viewership to say much about undecided voters.”
While making predictions in 2020 can be perilous, Silverman expects viewership to rise for the final debate between Biden and Trump.
“We saw 3-4 times increases in the audiences for both candidates from their first town hall to the second ones. In addition, both town halls had 2-3 times larger audiences than the first presidential debate and the VP debate,” he said. “Based on that trend and the election getting ever closer, I would bet that the next debate will have even higher viewership and that the audience will be a very broad cross-section of the U.S., everyone from party hardliners to swing state undecideds to the Person on the Street curious to see what the final arguments of (or between) the candidates will be.”
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