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A whole bunch of people watched the Clinton-Trump debate

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Monday night's debate was the most-watched in history.

An estimated 84 million people turned on their TV to watch as Hillary Clinton squared off against Donald Trump, according to Nielsen ratings. That's about a quarter of the country. And the majority of people who watched tuned in for the entire time, CNN Money notes.

But the actual number of people who watched is probably a lot higher. That's because Nielsen's figure doesn't include three groups:

  • All the people who watched at bars (there were various watch parties held across the country).
  • The people who streamed the debate online.
  • People who watched on C-SPAN and PBS.

2 screens is better than 1

A poll taken before the debate found the majority of people planned to watch on TV and using their phones.

https://twitter.com/gov/status/780542728736215041

And a few million did use their phones to talk about the debate. Nielsen reports 2.7 million people in the U.S. sent 17.1 million tweets related to the "Presidential Debate" on Monday. The majority of people were tweeting about Trump, according to Twitter's government and elections team.

https://twitter.com/gov/status/780599375781330945

The most tweeted about topics were the economy, foreign affairs, energy and environment, terrorism and guns (in that order), Twitter says. For highlights of the debate from Twitter, click here.

Millions watched online, too

The way the number of people who watched the debate via a live stream is counted differently, NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik explains.

He looked at the numbers from seven different media outlets that live streamed the debate and found that an estimate 35 million people watched at least part of the stream, while about 5 million people watched the live stream available on YouTube.

But remember, that 40 million doesn't include people who watched on other free streams, and doesn't mean they also didn't watch the debate on TV.

How do the numbers compare?

Monday's debate numbers were significantly higher than the first debate in the last presidential election, when 67 million viewers watched President Barack Obama square off against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, Nielsen ratings show.

And Clinton-Trump became the most-watched debate in history, beating out the 80.6 million people who tuned in to watch Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan debate in 1980 (there was only one presidential debate that year), CNN Money says.

But, NPR notes the growth in TV viewers isn't that surprising because the population in the United States has grown by about 100 million people in the past 36 years.

Either way, having 84 million people tune into one program is pretty impressive. There aren't a lot of TV programs that have drawn more than 80 million viewers, Politico says. Most of them have been Super Bowls, along the finales of "M.A.S.H." and "Cheers" – however, these programs were only aired on one channel. Nielsen's debate ratings looked at the number of people who watched 13 TV broadcasts.

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