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No evidence for claim that more than 128 million tuned into RNC opening

August 28, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: More than 128 million people tuned in to watch the Republican National Convention’s opening day, compared to just over 21 million who watched the Democratic National Convention.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The metrics that are available show more viewers tuned into the first night of the DNC than the first night of the RNC.

THE FACTS: The Associated Press reported an estimated 17 million people watched the last hour of the Republican National Convention’s opening night on Aug. 24 on television. That is lower than the estimated 19.7 million who tuned into the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 17.

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The estimates come from the Nielsen company, and account for viewers of 11 television networks. There is no way to truly calculate the total views across platforms, including all online streaming options.

False claims circulated on Twitter and Facebook about viewership between the conventions. “Day 1 of the DNC: 21.4 Million Views. Day 1 of the RNC: 128.4 Million,” reads one widely shared Facebook post.

The AP could find no evidence for the 128.4 million figure cited in the post, which is six times greater than the figure listed for the DNC. 

A headline in The Hill did announce, “First night of GOP convention delivers nearly six times more views than start of Democrats’ event on C-SPAN live stream.” The article only referred to online C-SPAN views, which were 440,000 on the opening day of the RNC, compared to 76,000 for the DNC. Those numbers represent a small fraction of the millions of viewers who watched the conventions across multiple networks and platforms.

It is possible that the 128.4 million figure in the post was generated by taking  21.4 million, which was a preliminary Nielsen estimate for the third night of the DNC, and multiplying it by six, based on a misunderstanding of the headlines about the C-SPAN numbers. 

Nielsen estimated the GOP enjoyed slightly more viewers than Democrats on the second night of conventions, when an estimated 19.4 million tuned into the RNC on television, versus 19.2 million who tuned into the DNC. Democrats had more viewers on the third night, with an estimated 22.8 million viewers compared to 17.3 million for Republicans. And on the final night of their respective events, the Democrats had 24.6 million viewers, while Republicans had 23.8 million.