Last Updated: November 4, 6:33 PM ET
Welcome to Nielsen’s 2020 Election Hub, where you can find the most up-to-date data on the biggest 2020 U.S. presidential election events. Compare presidential debate TV ratings since 1960, discover the shifting power of multicultural voters, see how political ad spending strategy has changed, uncover voter media viewership behavior, and the latest political solutions.
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ELECTION NIGHT TV RATINGS
An estimated 56.9 million people tuned in to watch coverage of the 2020 U.S. presidential election during primetime, from approximately 8:00 p.m. ET to 11:00 p.m. E.T. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. These television ratings include out-of-home (OOH) viewing as well as connected TV (CTV) viewing. Compared to 2016, nearly 15 million fewer people tuned in to this election.
The prior three presidential elections, election night television ratings have remained relatively stable oscillating between 67 and 71 million viewers. Since the 1960’s the number of households tuning in to election night coverage has increased, but the percentage of total homes has decreased. In 2020, just 31% of households tuned in for the big night, compared to nearly two-thirds in 1960.
More details (regarding age breakouts, channels, etc.) from recent election events are available in the media advisories below. Stay tuned for Election Night TV ratings.
POLITICAL media advisories
Below are the most recent media advisories featuring tv ratings, household viewership, and total audience viewership estimates, age breakouts and other details for the Democratic and Republican National Convention, and Presidental and Vice Presidential debates.
VOTER DEMOGRAPHICS & Viewership PREFERENCES
The presidential election puts a spotlight on the issues that are top of mind for many Americans and increasingly those of multicultural consumers. These charts highlight America’s unique voter demographics and viewership preferences from our database.
Click to expand each topic blow to see a brief synopsis, related charts and links to articles.
COVID-19 events and social unrest have kept demand for news consumption, even during warmer months, signaling the importance these events have had on the daily lives of Americans. For politicians, local and national, these events have become the centerpiece of many platforms and political campaigns.
News engagement hit new heights in Q2 2020, with especially impressive gains in March and April before gradually returning to pre-COVID levels. This is true not just for local TV news, national broadcast TV news and Cable TV news, but also across digital platforms. Across gender and ethnicity, the average daily reach for current events and global news on desktops/laptops, smartphones and tablets is up 40 – 60% between April 2019 and 2020. Meaning, people visiting Current Events sites/apps are engaged more often and for longer periods of time.
The events of 2020 have created a catalyst for a dramatic shift in TV news viewership demographics. Demand for local and national news has increased across the board with Asian, Hispanic and Black American viewers driving most of the growth. Between Q2 2020 and Q2 2019, Asian American viewers nearly doubled (+86%) their consumption of news per week from over three hours per week to just over six. Black viewers surpassed an average of 10 hours per week, up from six hours and 43 minutes, an increase of 58%. Viewership also varied significantly across local markets, where factors such as demographics, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the impact of the pandemic come into play. In the second quarter of 2020, Black Americans spent 12 and half hours watching TV news per week in Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago. In most markets local TV news dominated, followed by cable TV.
People ages 55 and older continued to tune in to TV news at an astonishing rate of 14 hours and 43 minutes per week, but growth came largely from the 18 – 34 demographic. These younger consumers watched an average of just over two hours of TV news each week in the second quarter of 2020, a 134% increase from the previous year.
Nielsen Ad Intel data shows a significant uptick in TV and radio advertising impressions purchased by measured presidential campaigns and identifiable political organizations in the third quarter of 2020. In total, political campaigns measured purchased 17.6 million English language ad impressions in the third quarter, which is five times more impressions than the first two quarters of 2020. This investment is twice as high as the peak English ad impression investment during the 2016 presidential election, which saw a high of 9.2 million.
At the same time, Spanish language ad impressions were nearly triple the size compared to the first quarter of 2020. This data shows a deviation from previous years where organizations invested more in Spanish language ads during earlier quarters and then decreased investment in the third quarter.
Media measurement continues to show that media habits vary across multicultural viewers, which means that reaching multicultural Americans requires a varied omnichannel approach. Black and Hispanic Americans are heavy consumers of television and own more TVs, while Asian Americans tend to over-index on device ownership of other, smaller screens such as tablets, computers and smartphones.
For many of these voters, politics has bled into every part of their lives from the shows they watch to the podcasts they listen to. Nielsen’s voter ratings look at the voters amongst the tv viewers and found that Fox audiences aren’t all Republican, niche cable programming offers an opportunity to reach key voter audiences, while sports seems to unite fans and voters alike.
Voter demographics are shifting in America. Male, female and White voting-age populations have all remained relatively stable since the last presidential election while other multicultural groups have seen significant population shifts, particularly Asian Americans and those who identify as two or more races. Altogether, multicultural registered voters make up almost a third (29%) of all voters.
Unlike White Americans, whose party lines are more evenly distributed, registered multicultural voters, particularly those who L2, a voter mapping and demographic company, defines as likely African-American or Hispanic and Portuguese, are significantly more likely to identify as Democrats. This uneven distribution of political affiliations, plus large populations of Latinos residing in swing states, makes this community’s voting power significant. Like African Americans, many Hispanics have been on the front lines of the battle against the novel coronavirus this year in essential occupations, making them even more focused on the economy and health care access.
When it comes to voting only a small percentage of registered voters regularly cast their votes during the general and primary elections. In fact, over half of Americans, regardless of their ethnicity, are occasional voters and have voted just 1 – 4 times in the past four general and primary elections.
Nearly a third of white Americans are heavy voters, voting five to eight times over the last four general and primary elections. Black Americans have the next highest heavy voter population, with 25%. Yet a deeper dive shows that among Black Americans, there are significant inequalities in voting behavior across gender. According to the U.S. Census Black women consistently lead in turnout rates. In 2016, 64% of Black women cast ballots compared to just 54% of men.
HISTORICAL ELECTION EVENT RATINGS
We’ve had our pulse on America’s political main events since the 1960s, and now you can see how Americans have viewed each one over the last six decades. The charts below showcase our available historical ratings for key election events.
Although presidential elections are the main event, there’s much more to politics. Read through our past articles to see how Americans have tuned in or out of politics in the past.
SOLUTIONS FOR THE POLITICALLY SAVVY
With so much at stake, it’s critical that campaigns allocate the right resources in order to reach key voters and maximize investments. Discover how to reach voters, develop impactful messaging and increase the overall awareness of their candidates.
PARTY AFFILIATION BY CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Source: Nielsen Scarborough/Rhiza 2017