Final presidential Trump-Biden debate scores 63 million viewers

Moderator Kristen Welker questions President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden during Thursday's debate.
(Associated Press)

The second and final presidential debate between President Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden attracted 63 million viewers Thursday, falling short of the audience for their first meeting.

The final number from Nielsen is 14% below the Sept. 29 debate, which averaged 73.1 million viewers. Second presidential debates typically draw a smaller audience than the first.

Trump and Biden are meeting only twice as their Oct. 15 meeting was canceled due to the president’s unwillingness to do the event remotely after he contracted COVID-19.


When President Trump and Joe Biden meet in Nashville on Thursday, a familiar face from the White House press corps will be in charge.

Oct. 21, 2020

The second event, moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, was praised for its civility relative to the chaotic first debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates muted the microphone of the candidate not speaking during the two-minute statements at the start of each segment.

The candidates mostly battled over the president’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, energy policy, healthcare and the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter.

The result was far fewer interruptions and a more substantive discussion of issues. Welker earned kudos as a moderator and even earned an on-stage compliment from Trump despite his social media criticisms of her in the days leading up to the event.

“I’m jealous,” Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said on the air last night after the debate. Wallace had the unenviable task of controlling the candidates during the first debate without the benefit of audio guardrails.

“I would have liked to have been able to moderate that debate and to get a real exchange of views instead of hundreds of interruptions,” Wallace said. “I thought it was a good debate, a good substantive debate, two very competing visions for the country.”

Fox News had the most viewers for the second debate, with 14.8 million viewers. The network led its competition for both presidential debates and the meeting of vice presidential candidates. ABC was second on Thursday night, with 10.8 million viewers, followed by NBC (10.2 million), CNN (7.2 million), MSNBC (6.7 million) and CBS (5.5 million).


The debate also aired on Telemundo, Univision, CNN en Español, Fox Business Network, Newsmax, Newsy, Vice and WGN America.