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McCain Tops Obama’s Record-Breaking Ratings

2 minute read | September 2008

On Thursday night, John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention bested Barack Obama’s record-breaking viewership numbers from last week by 500,000 viewers.

More than 38.9 million people tuned in to coverage of the final night of the GOP convention.  In comparison, Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic convention drew 38.4 million viewers.

For the third night in a row, more women (19.2 million) than men (17.9 million) watched the RNC coverage.  Still, McCain’s speech drew significantly more men than Obama’s acceptance speech (16.2 million).  In contrast, Obama drew more women (19.9 million) than McCain.

White viewers flocked to their TV’s for McCain’s speech (32.2 million vs. 27 million for Obama).   But among African Americans, the reverse was true: 7.5 million African Americans watched Obama’s speech last week, while just 3.1 million tuned in for McCain’s speech.

All Households24.628,298,000
Persons 2+13.438,933,000
Women 18+16.519,193,000
Men 18+16.617,933,000
Persons 12-173.4836,000
Persons 18-349.06,108,000
Persons 18-4911.515,218,000
Persons 55+25.217,977,000
African American Persons 2+ *8.33,063,000
Hispanic Persons 2+ *9.94,297,000
White Persons 2+ *15.032,210,000
Source: The Nielsen Company (September 4, 2008)
Figures are the sum of the networks during the common hour of coverage. Included networks are ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Telemundo, and Univision.
*Ratings for African American, Hispanic, and White viewers show the percent of African American, Hispanic, and White persons age two and older in TV homes watching the convention coverage.

The TV audience for day four of the GOP convention was larger (+41%) than the audience for the same night during the 2004 convention, which drew 27.5 million viewers.

On Thursday, September 4, 2008, convention coverage varied by network, with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, Telemundo, and Univision airing live coverage from approximately 10pm to 11:15pm EST.

Note:  Nielsen’s new universe estimates for the 2008-09 television season took effect on September 1, 2008, reflecting a 1.3% increase in TV households and viewers aged two or older.  As a result, each rating point represents more households and persons.  Read about the new totals.

View the full media alert.

Read coverage of Nielsen’s findings in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Multichannel News, Ad Age, and on

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