Nielsen: 67.2 million people watched first Obama-Romney debate

A huge audience -- an estimated 67.2 million people -- watched the first presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney on Wednesday, according to ratings firm Nielsen.

The crowd levels represent a 28% increase over viewership for the first debate four years ago between then-Sen. Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). That debate, in September 2008, garnered an audience of 52.4 million viewers.

Wednesday night’s event was carried live from the University of Denver in Colorado across nearly a dozen channels. Romney was credited for a strong performance during the forum, moderated by Jim Lehrer, host of “NewsHour” on PBS.

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Four television networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News Channel -- each attracted more than 10 million viewers to their telecasts.

More than 6 million people watched the debate on cable news channel CNN, which outdistanced MSNBC with 4.7 million viewers. Fox News Channel attracted the largest audience among the cable news outlets with 10.4 million viewers.

CNN, meanwhile, captured more young viewers than the other cable news outlets, with an estimated 1.5 million viewers age 18 to 34. Nielsen said more than 12 million viewers were age 18 to 34.

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More than 30 million people over 55 watched the debate, according to Nielsen. Nearly 20 million people between the ages of 35 and 54 tuned in.

The channels that carried the debate included ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting, NBC, PBS, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, Current TV, CNBC and Spanish-language Telemundo and Univision. Telemundo aired the debate on a tape delay basis.

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