Monday’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump captured at least 84 million viewers, making it the most-watched presidential debate in U.S. history and putting it in the stratosphere of the Super Bowl.
The Nielsen company said the viewership toppled a 36-year-old record set in 1980 when Jimmy Carter faced Ronald Reagan in the contest’s sole presidential debate. That event attracted 80.6 million viewers. By comparison, the first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012 averaged 67 million viewers.
No debate since then had exceeded 70 million viewers. Social media was humming, too, with Nielsen saying there were some 17.1 million Twitter interactions involving 2.7 million people on Monday. Tivo said that the moment during the debate that caused more people to pause their television and play back what was said came near the end, when Trump said that he will “absolutely support” Clinton if she is elected president.
Clinton has some bragging rights at home. When final results are in, the audience for her first presidential debate will more than double what her husband, former President Bill Clinton, received for his last presidential debate in 1996 (36.3 million viewers).
Only the Super Bowl annually commands a television audience of that size. The biggest audience in U.S. television history was the 114.4 million people who watched the 2015 Super Bowl between New England and Seattle.