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Clinton-Dole Debate Falls Short in TV Ratings

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<i> From a Times Staff Writer</i>

The final debate between President Clinton and Republican Bob Dole on Wednesday night drew lower ratings than any other presidential face-off ever televised, according to Nielsen Media Research figures released Thursday.

Though significantly more Americans watched Wednesday night’s debate in San Diego than the baseball playoff game that was on at the same time, the sporting event appeared to take a bite out of the debate’s viewership.

The debate was seen by 36.3 million people, according to the Nielsen figures, compared to 46.1 million who watched the pair’s first debate on Oct. 6. While the debate aired on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, Fox’s coverage of the National League championship series attracted 16.9 million viewers, the most yet for a playoff game this year. Nielsen had no immediate measurements for other networks, such the Fox News Channel, MSNBC and PBS, which also televised the debate.

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Even discounting baseball, interest in this year’s debates is clearly down. The debates during the 1992 presidential campaign averaged 66.4 million viewers, similar to the totals in 1988, ’84 and ’76. In 1980, the debate between then-President Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan was seen by an audience of 80.6 million.


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