A story at DailyKos.com, Signs of impending African American voter tidal wave, discusses the high interest of African American viewers in the election. The story notes that according to Neilson, ratings for the presidential debates have been especially high in metropolitan areas with a high percentage of African Americans.
An article from the Baltimore Sun, Debates drawing big TV audiences in Baltimore, notes that:
Among the Top 30 TV markets in the country, Baltimore has the second-highest percentage of black viewers at 27.1 percent. But for the (first two presidential and vice-presidential) debates, Nielsen figures show the black audience tracked higher than that, at about 38 percent of all viewers.
In the Baltimore area, ratings collectively were the highest in the country for the first two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate.
Baltimore ranked third nationally in viewership for the first debate, first for the vice presidential showdown and third for the second presidential debate – far outpacing even the nation’s steeped-in-politics capital 40 miles down the parkway. That’s a marked change from the 2004 race, when Baltimore did not finish in the top 10 TV markets for any debate.
“When you look at the ratings for the debates, the large number of black households in the market would have to be a major factor,” says Emerson Coleman, vice president of programming for Hearst-Argyle, which owns WBAL-Channel 11 in Baltimore.
In other markets where black households make up more than one-quarter of all TV homes, viewership for the recent debates was also among the strongest in the country – in metro areas including Memphis, Tenn.; Raleigh- Durham, N.C.; and Norfolk and the Richmond, Va., area.
Black viewers compelled by Obama’s candidacy are being drawn to national politics in a way not seen since the civil rights movement, several analysts said. In Baltimore, other factors could be at play, they said, such as the concentration of colleges, including historically black Coppin State and Morgan State universities.
“The reason, of course, is Barack Obama, who has made it possible for African-Americans to hope again,” said Sheri Parks, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, who specializes in the study of media, pop culture and African-American families. “Many African-Americans, and I am one of them, did not expect to see this in our lifetimes, an African-American who could be president, and you are not going miss any chance to see him on television.”
Because of its large percentage of black households, the Baltimore area became known in the TV industry in the 1990s as part of the “Cosby Belt.” The Cosby Show was a huge hit most everywhere, but scored exceptionally high ratings in Baltimore and cities demographically like it.
The debates are captivating people of all colors and creating newfound political junkies who are watching together at movie theaters, bars, churches, college dorms, restaurants and in private homes.