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Debate Ratings Up Over '84

September 29, 1988|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Viewers in 35,387,800 homes saw Sunday night's 90-minute presidential debate on the three major networks and Cable News Network, according to A. C. Nielsen Co. estimates made available Wednesday.

The debate between Vice President George Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis was seen in about 2.6 million more homes than were recorded as tuned in for the first of two presidential debates in October, 1984, between President Reagan and Democrat former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Sunday's debate attracted an estimated 62.7% of the national television audience, ratings for the networks and CNN showed. It was also seen on some PBS stations and C-SPAN, but Nielsen said it did not have national ratings for those services.

NBC estimated that 66 million people viewed the verbal joust. NBC, with a large audience lead-in from its Olympics telecast, had the highest ratings for the debate, averaging 16.1.

CBS was second with a 13.1 average. ABC, whose anchorman Peter Jennings was one the three questioners on the debate panel, was third with a 9. Each rating point represents 904,000 homes.

CNN, which says it reaches 47 million of the nation's 52.8 million homes served by cable TV, came in fourth in debate ratings, getting a 1.8 average and a 2.7% share of the viewing audience.

The three networks and CNN are planning live coverage of Wednesday's vice presidential debate between Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Sen. Daniel Quayle in Omaha, Neb. That 90-minute debate will start at 5:30 p.m PDT.

The last nationally televised vice-presidential debate, between Bush and the Democrat Geraldine Ferraro on Oct. 11, 1984, was seen in 31,413,000 homes, according to Nielsen estimates.

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