Preliminary Nielsen ratings show the second Democratic debate Saturday night averaged about 8.5 million viewers, CNN Money reported Sunday. While it was the most watched show on broadcast television Saturday night, its viewership paled in comparison to the first Democratic debate moderated by CNN, which averaged about 15.3 million viewers.
The second debate’s time slot could have hurt the viewership. CNN’s debate was held on a Tuesday night in October, and there was also seemingly less awareness of the second debate, which was broadcast on CBS.
The CBS debate was the only one so far in this election cycle not broadcast on a weeknight and was the first on a broadcast network, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The CBS debate came about a week after the Democratic forum on MSNBC, which drew only a little more than 2 million viewers.
The Republican debates have drawn huge audiences. The first Republican primary debate in August, on Fox News, drew in 24 million viewers, and the second in September, on CNN, drew in about 23 million.
Saturday’s debate featured the three remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. In the wake of the bloody attacks in Paris Friday night, some of the debate focused on foreign policy and dealing with the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Clinton said during the debate ISIS can’t be contained and should be defeated, contrasting with President Barack Obama’s statement just before the Paris attacks that ISIS had been "contained," CNN reported. "What the president has consistently said, which I agree with, is that we will support those who will take that fight to ISIS,” she said.
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Clinton was also criticized by her opponents for her vote while she was a U.S. senator to support the Iraq War. Sanders said the 2003 Iraq invasion destabilized the region and led to the rise of ISIS.