Trump and Clinton at the debate
Trump and Clinton at the debate Reuters

More than 80 million people tuned in on Monday night to see the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, making it the most-watched debate in American history.

While the final numbers are still being tallied by Nielsen, the debate averaged a total of 80.9 million viewers across 12 of the channels that carried it live, according to CNN.

Nielsen traditionally measures viewers who watch via traditional TV at home, meaning people who watched the debate at parties, bars, restaurants, and offices were not counted.

The 80.9 million viewer total also does not include PBS and C-SPAN, nor does it include the millions who watched the debate via the Internet.

Various live streams of the debate on YouTube together registered more than 2.5 million simultaneous viewers. Live streams on other sites also reached millions of people, according to CNN, meaning the actual total audience is significantly higher than 80 million.

Nielsen data confirms that viewership stayed high the entire time. Contrary to some speculation, there was not a big drop-off after the first hour of the 98-minute debate.

The debate viewership number to beat was 81 million, set back in 1980, when Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan debated just once before the election.

62% of Americans who watched the debate believe Clinton won, with just 27% saying Trump emerged victorious, according to a CNN/ORC poll published hours after the debate.

A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey also showed most Americans believe Clinton won the debate, albeit by a narrower margin. According to PPP, 50% of viewers say Clinton performed better, compared to 41% who say Trump came out on top.