LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 51 million Americans watched Thursday's feisty showdown between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan, down sharply from the audience for the first presidential debate last week.
Final Nielsen ratings data on Friday showed that the vice presidential match-up on issues ranging from the economy to foreign policy and abortion, was seen by 51.4 million Americans across 12 cable and broadcast networks.
The October 3 debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney drew a TV audience of 67.2 million, putting it among the 10 most-watched debates of the past 30 years.
The Biden-Ryan debate also fell far short of the audience for the 2008 vice presidential encounter between Biden and Republican nominee Sarah Palin. That debate was watched by 69.9 million, tying it for the second-most viewed debate since Nielsen began collecting such data in 1976.
According to the media research company, the most-watched debate since 1976 was the October 1980 encounter between Republican challenger Ronald Reagan and Democratic President Jimmy Carter, which drew 80.6 million viewers.
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Simao)