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Ratings for third Democratic debate underscore continued interest in 2020 election

The debate was boosted by the inclusion of all three Democratic front-runners on the same stage for the first time in the election cycle.
Image: L.A. Area Residents Watch Democratic Presidential Candidates In Third Debate
People watch a live broadcast as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during a presidential debate watch party at The Abbey in West Hollywood on Sept. 12, 2019.Mario Tama / Getty Images

The third Democratic presidential debate attracted an average of 14 million viewers on ABC and Univision Thursday night, according to data released by the broadcaster — a strong showing and an indication that public interest in the 2020 election is high.

The debate was boosted by the inclusion of all three Democratic front-runners on the same stage for the first time in the election cycle, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders squaring off over health care and many other topics. The first two debates were spread out over two nights due to the deep roster of people running for the Democratic nomination.

But with the Democratic Party elevating the requirements to make the debate, only 10 candidates qualified for Thursday's event, a field small enough to fit on a single stage — and on a single night.

It is the third-straight debate in which viewership has outpaced most other Democratic debates. ABC's debate also had to contend with an NFL football game, which routinely draw sizable audiences.

Night One of the first Democratic presidential debate drew 15.3 million viewers across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, with the second night drawing 18 million viewers — a record for a Democratic debate, according to data from Nielsen, a media tracking company.

Night One of the second debate, hosted by CNN, drew 8.7 million viewers, with the second night drawing 10.7 million viewers — also both well ahead of previous ratings for other Democratic debates.

ABC News also said it drew more than 2.9 million visitors for its digital coverage and 11 million video views.

While there are still about 10 months to go before the 2020 Democratic National Convention, debate ratings have indicated continued interest from voters. A recent poll from CNN also found that voters in both parties are "extremely enthusiastic" about voting at levels that easily outpace previous election cycles.

Voters won't have to wait long for another event. The fourth debate is scheduled for Oct. 15 (and possibly Oct. 16 if enough candidates qualify) and will be co-hosted by CNN and The New York Times. It is scheduled to take place in Westerville, Ohio.