Are the Republican debates for president of the United States taking place too soon – well more than a year before the November 2016 general election?
No. Here’s why:
Day-after ratings showed 23 million viewers tuned in Wednesday evening for the 11-candidate forum in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that lasted three hours in prime time. CNN reported it was the most-watched program in the network’s history.
The numbers reflect two things:
(1) Interest in the 2016 presidential election is steady and at an all-time high, with the CNN debate logging only 1-million fewer viewers than the comparable FOX News debate six weeks earlier.
(2) Even if all those viewers were registered voters, overall interest in the upcoming election appears to be lagging. Therefore, airing such debates starting 15 months out makes sense if universal interest is to be ramped up going into Election Day 2016.
In 2014, 142 million people were registered Democrats, Republicans or Independents. Nearly 65 percent of them went to the polls in a non-presidential election – or about 92.3 million. So, Wednesday night’s viewership represents only about 25 percent of those across the nation who made the time to vote last year.
Moreover, the U.S. Census Bureau shows that an additional 78 million U.S. citizens are eligible to vote. But they have not bothered to sign up with their local election registrars.
Hopefully, the debates, coupled with the results of the state primary elections between now and November 2016, will sway more people to register and then go to the polls in the upcoming general election – perhaps the most important political contest in the history of the free world’s most powerful and influential nation.