The numbers are coming in for television viewership of President Obama’s second inauguration, and they are dramatically lower than the figures for the president’s first swearing-in in 2009. While there were a number of factors that account for the change, the biggest is that Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who watched Obama’s inauguration four years ago simply tuned out this year.
Gallup reports that 38 percent of those included in an overnight survey said they watched Monday’s inauguration ceremony, while 27 percent said they saw some news coverage, for a total of 65 percent. That’s down from the 60 percent who watched the ’09 ceremony and 20 percent who saw coverage, for a total of 80 percent. And Obama’s 2013 numbers are not only down from his first inaugural; they’re down from the 40 percent who watched George W. Bush’s 2005 second swearing-in and the 33 percent who saw some news coverage, for a total of 73 percent.
The partisan breakdown in this year’s audience is striking. Fifty-six percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents told Gallup they watched the ceremony Monday. Just 26 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents watched. Both numbers are down from 2009, but the GOP drop was far bigger than the drop among Democrats. Four years ago, 70 percent of Democrats watched the ceremony, along with 51 percent of Republicans. That means viewership this year was down 14 percentage points among Democrats, and 25 percentage points among Republicans.
As far as individual news outlets are concerned, Nielsen reports that CNN was the most-watched cable network Monday, with 3.136 million people watching the ceremony. In 2009, the CNN audience at the same time was 8.119 million — a drop of 61 percent. Monday’s ceremony attracted 2.273 million viewers on MSNBC — down 25 percent from the network’s audience four years ago. And 1.316 million watched the Obama second inaugural on Fox News — down 75 percent from 5.291 four years ago.