How many voters tuned into the Love/McAdams debate on Monday? Ratings suggest not many

How much of an impact did Monday’s hotly anticipated debate between Ben McAdams and Mia Love have for voters in Utah’s 4th CD? TV ratings suggest, not much.

Overnight ratings for the debate, which ran from 6-7 pm on Monday night, showed about 56,000 households in Utah tuned in to one of the broadcast stations airing the event put on by the Utah Debate Commission. That translates to about 115,000 adults over the age of 18 statewide.

Tom Love, President of advertising firm Love Communications, tells those numbers are far below the normal number of viewers the local TV stations would pull in for their regular programming.

“These ratings cover the entire state. It’s probably safe to assume that at least 80% of that viewing happened across the Wasatch Front, with much of that in Salt Lake County,” said Love. “But since the county is split into all four congressional districts, it’s really hard to tell how much impact this debate could have had with just voters in CD4.”

Love says even if half of all of the Salt Lake County voters resided in CD4, which is a generous estimate, 55,000 viewers is less than a quarter of the total voters who could cast a ballot in the race. Turnout for the 2016 election was approximately 274,000 voters. They’ll get more bang for their buck through traditional TV advertising.

“That’s just an 18% reach for a single debate,” said Love. “The candidates will quintuple Monday night’s debate audience with their respective media buys.”

The ratings do not take into account viewers who may have tuned in on the radio, streamed the debate online or watched on CSPAN, but it’s likely it didn’t significantly boost numbers in the district.