Saturday evening's Democratic presidential debate attracted an audience of 8.5 million, according to preliminary Nielsen estimates.

The ratings for the second debate, reported by CNN, represents a huge drop in viewership from the first Democratic debate on CNN in mid-October, when a record-breaking 15.3 million people tuned in.

In fact it was the least-watched debate this election season so far. Republican debates have consistently attracted a larger audience. A Fox News debate in August drew 24 million viewers followed by a debate hosted by CNN in September that boasted 23 million viewers. A third GOP debate in November, held by the Fox Business Network, attracted an audience of 13.5 million.

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Saturday's debate was televised on CBS and was also available on the CBS' website and featured the three remaining major Democratic candidates: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. It was the first debate to be held during the weekend and was competing with a series of Saturday night college football games.

The next Democratic debate is scheduled for the weekend before Christmas.

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