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Anyone following the hotly contested, always controversial, and often divisive 2016 Presidential race between Hillary Clinton (Dem.) and Donald Trump (GOP) is familiar with the endless amounts of drama and points of political contention both between and within the Republican and Democratic parties. However, how do the political parties compare when it comes to one simple quantifiable figure: their national convention ratings? Convention ratings can carry weight. A convention with higher ratings presented the best its party had to offer to more voters, making the higher-rated convention the most likely to sway precious voters.
The most important part of any political convention is the keynote speech given by the nominee, so I will begin the comparison by juxtaposing Trump’s fourth-night convention ratings with Hillary’s. With so many news outlets providing comprehensive coverage of both conventions, it is necessary to aggregate the total amount of viewers across all networks and platforms. According to Deadline, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Fox News Channel and MSNBC reported 33.3 million viewers in total for Hillary Clinton’s keynote address to the DNC in Philadelphia from 10 PM – 11:40 PM ET last Thursday. Trump’s keynote, delivered on July 21 in Cleveland, received 34.9 million viewers across the same networks, besting Clinton’s total by about 5%. Clinton was also down compared to Obama’s keynote speech for his reelection campaign on September 6, 2012, which was watched by 35.71 million people across America.
Luckily for Clinton and the DNC, the keynote speeches were the only aspect of the DNC VS. RNC ratings war won by the Republicans. While the RNC wasn’t short on controversy, with the already infamous speech by Melania Trump that employed lines suspiciously similar to Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech and Ted Cruz’s stunning prime-time non-endorsement of Trump, none of it turned into record-breaking ratings for the convention. The overall disappointment with the RNC is indisputable, a fact that Trump himself recognized when commenting to the New York Times, distancing himself from the perceived failure by stating: “I didn’t produce our show — I just showed up for the final speech on Thursday.” Trump himself went on Fox News to speak with Bill O’Reilly during his own party’s prime-time convention programming block, possibly cannibalizing his own convention’s viewers.
The DNC absolutely shellacked the RNC in first, second, and third night ratings, with Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine handily defeating his Republican counterpart Mike Pence. According to Nielsen, the first three days of the DNC received 28.4 million, 28 million, and 27 million viewers respectively. The first three days of the RNC were watched by 23 million, 23 million, and 19.8 million people, respectively.