Obama’s Audience Off from 2008 — Romney Competed with Eastwood

President Barack Obama drew a bigger national television audience at his convention than Republican nominee Mitt Romney did at his, the ratings show.

Yet TV viewership this year was off from 2008, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Fox News ruled in Tampa, Fox trailed in Charlotte.

Then again, people have found other ways of tuning into these affairs since 2008, when Twitter was just a feeling in a speech-maker’s stomach. A survey presented at the conventions by Bloomberg, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication found that many younger people are following social media closer than they are old-school television.

And, of course, Hollywood’s Clint Eastwood was burning up Twitter in his prime-time improv with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention — pushing the party’s actual nominee well past the prime-time window of 11 pm with the closing of his nomination acceptance speech. Eastwood’s speech was virtually tied with Romney’s as the “highlight” of the party’s convention, the Pew Research Center found in a survey.

Nielsen says 35.7 million people watched the final night of the Democratic convention in Charlotte between 10 and 11 p.m. — when Obama managed to finish most of his 39-minute acceptance speech. In 2008, 38.3 million had watched Obama’s first nomination acceptance speech (PBS hadn’t been counted in that, which probably pushed it past 40 million).

In contrast, Romney drew 30.3 million viewers for his speech in Tampa in the 10-11 pm slot, with Eastwood headlining — Romney’s own speech ran until nearly 11:30 pm.

Whereas Fox led the ratings for the final night of the Republican convention,  it placed last for the Democratic convention audience. NBC led among Democratic convention viewers, with 7.38 million on the final night,  CNN was second with 5.56 million viewers, MSNBC 4.55 million, ABC 4 million, PBS 3.86 million, CBS 3.29 million and Fox News Channel 2.86 million, according to Nielsen.

The Bloomberg-Kennedy-Annenberg study was presented at the Bloomberg Link centers run at both conventions in Tampa and Charlotte.

It shows that younger voters rely on social media heavily — asked about what they have learned on Facebook, 58 percent said it was news already heard somewhere else, and about one-third were finding news there. A majority said they had first heard the news of Rep. Paul Ryan’s selection as Romney’s running mate on TV, while younger voters tended to have heard about it online. Younger voters turn more heavily to the likes of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, the survey found, yet they still count on traditional sources of news.

The  survey also anked trust in news sources, and found local TV newscasts outranking Jon Stewart — with Twitter trailing behind.

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