Some 31 million U.S. television viewers tuned in to see President Barack Obama lead a memorial tribute to victims of the deadly shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona, according to TV ratings provider Nielsen.

The emotionally charged speech, in which Obama urged Americans not to politicize a tragedy that left six people dead and 13 others wounded, drew generally high marks for his bid to balance words of consolation with a call for national unity.

The seven-network tally for Obama's 30-minute address, carried live on Wednesday night from the University of Arizona, topped the 29 million viewers the president drew in August for his speech on U.S. involvement in Iraq.

It fell just shy of the 32 million people who tuned in to watch an address he delivered in June about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Nielsen reported on Thursday.

By comparison, the most highly rated show on U.S. television, Fox network's American Idol, typically averages roughly 25 million viewers for any given episode.

Obama commanded a bigger audience yet, 48 million viewers, with his last State of the Union address in January 2010, according to Nielsen.

(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Bob Tourtellotte)