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Debate ratings: Trump and Biden’s final debate reached 21 per cent fewer people compared to the first encounter

Preliminary ratings from Thursday night’s presidential debate show that significantly fewer people tuned in to watch Donald Trump and Joe Biden’ final encounter than their first contest.

Early figures from the big four networks – ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox – show an average of 21.4 million viewers during the 90-minute programme, according to Deadline.

The tally represents a 21 per cent decline from the first debate in Cleveland, Ohio on 29 September.

Those numbers are likely to increase when cable networks CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel report their audience totals later on Friday, but are still likely to mark a significant decline from the first meeting.

That first debate, which was marked by repeated interruptions from the president that infuriated moderator Chris Wallace, Mr Biden and the audience, was one of top three most-watched debates of all time.

A total of 73.1 million viewers tuned in. 

Four years ago, the numbers did tail off between the first and final debates – as they did this year.

For Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton’s final debate, on October 19, 2016, a total of 71.6 million people watched.

Thursday’s lower ratings is due to a combination of factors.

The first encounter, in Ohio, was so contentious many people may have decided to skip the second debate.

An estimated 45 million people had already voted as of Thursday, meaning that they were perhaps already “done” with the election.

And finally, the debate clashed with a high-profile American Football game, which pitched the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles.