Related topics

Post uses incomplete viewership tallies for 2020 political conventions

September 9, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Viewership during each of the four nights of the Republican National Convention was much higher than the four nights of the Democratic National Convention.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. Available viewership metrics show more people overall tuned into the DNC than the RNC. The claim relies only on data from online streaming of C-SPAN’s YouTube channel, which represents a small fraction of the millions of viewers across platforms. 

THE FACTS:  More people tuned in on television to the Democratic National Convention overall compared to the Republican National Convention, according to the Nielsen company, which estimates television viewership on ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, PBS, CNN, CNNe, Fox Business, FOXNC, MSNBC and Newsy, as well as some computer and mobile streaming data associated with those channels.


There are no available estimates that calculate total viewership including all online streaming views.

Nielsen viewership estimates for the thirteen channels it tracks show the Democratic event had more viewers on its first, second and fourth nights compared to the GOP event. 

On the first night of the Democratic convention on Aug. 17, 19.7 million tuned in to those channels, compared to the 17 million people who watched the Republican National Convention’s opening night on Aug. 24.

The GOP enjoyed slightly more viewers than Democrats on the second night of conventions, when an estimated 19.4 million tuned into the RNC, 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.

The Facebook post claiming more viewers tuned in for the Republican convention relies on a bar graph titled “RNC vs DNC viewership,” with red bars representing RNC viewers on all four days of the convention towering over short blue bars representing DNC viewers. 

The meme cites its source as C-SPAN YouTube channel as of Aug. 28. It lists the following breakdown, which appear to be accurate reflections of C-SPAN YouTube views as of Aug. 28.


For the first night, RNC: 1,036,734, DNC: 84,833. For the second night, RNC: 1,807,444, DNC: 51,290. For the third night, RNC: 935,747, DNC: 65,474. For the fourth night: RNC: 1,316,388, DNC: 163, 535.

But the C-SPAN YouTube channel was only one of the many ways to stream the conventions online, and represents a small fraction of the millions of viewers who tuned in across platforms. Nielsen viewership estimates for 13 channels during the Republican National Convention were more than 10 times larger than the busiest night of C-SPAN YouTube views.

The two numbers cannot be easily compared, however. While Nielsen has over years developed a system for estimating average audience, YouTube views only reflect the number of times people clicked to start watching the video. 

“It’s just a completely different metric,” said Kevin Rini, the senior vice president of product for national television measurement for Nielsen. 

Rini said he is not aware of any company that can calculate total audience across both television and streaming platforms for the parties’ political conventions, but Nielsen is working toward having that capability in the future.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: