Twitter became an opinion machine – but this was still a television election

This was the first Twitter election, some commentators declared – on Twitter. Oh no it wasn’t. This was the 14th television election in the United States. Ever since 1960, when 61 per cent of households with TVs watched the first televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy, presidential campaigns have been fought on what Americans call the tube.This time, the first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney attracted the sixth-largest audience in TV debate history – 67 million. The main difference made by the new technology of the internet is that a few million more people watched the debate live-streamed on their computers, phones or tablets. The ratings companies don’t collect that information, but CNN, for example, said it recorded 1.2 million live streams of its debate coverage around the world. So the total audience for the first debate could have been as much as 70 million, which would have made it the second most-watched election debate after the 81 million who watched the final Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan debate in 1980.–but-this-was-still-a-television-election-8294916.html

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