The viewership numbers are in from the latest Democratic debate and judging by the lack of enthusiasm, Democrats should be worried.
The debate in Los Angeles, according to Neilson, drew barely 6 million viewers. The first debate last June drew 18 million. Have all the Democrats made up their minds and don’t need to watch any more?
On the contrary, a majority of Democratic voters are still undecided or could switch allegiances.
These national numbers underscore a reality that has existed for the duration of the race. While the field has seen individual candidates’ polling spike and decline, Biden and Sanders — the two men who entered the race with the highest name recognition and the most distinct bases of support — have maintained their spots atop the field in a remarkable fashion.
Biden led the field in national polls even before declaring his candidacy, and has kept this position throughout the contest. Similarly, Sanders has almost always been second — barring a brief stretch in the fall during which Warren captured that spot.
It’s worth remembering that polling in the first few states to vote — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, in that order — arguably tells us more about who will win the nomination, but even that’s contingent on voters having made up their minds. And based on this latest round of national polls, most people haven’t.
So why aren’t Democratic voters tuning in?
The only possible positive explanation is that voters have already made their voting choices for the primaries. That doesn’t make too much sense, given the volatility in polling for Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders over the last couple of months. It’s tough to aggregate polling on “not sure” as RCP doesn’t track that response, but the NBC/WSJ poll this week showed 5% unsure, only down slightly from 8% in July when millions more tuned in to see a debate. Similarly, the CNN poll series shows 5% unsure at the moment, but only 9% unsure in June. And the latest Quinnipiac survey shows 11% of Democratic voters are still unsure, the highest level since September. In this poll, 61% of those who do support a particular candidate say they still could change their mind, too.
In this case, familiarity does, indeed, breed contempt. The more Democratic voters get to know the candidates the less they like them and desire another choice.
Michael Bloomberg saw those same numbers and jumped into the race. Hillary Clinton is still mulling her options. The fact is, there is a waning enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee, whoever they will be.
It turns out that wanting to beat Trump isn’t enough. Voters want ideas they can support. What they’re getting is a stew of radical “soak the rich” rhetoric and the same, tired ideas that the American left has been pushing since the 1960s.
No wonder Democratic voters want someone else to vote for.