POLITICS
01/21/2017 04:56 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2017

Nearly 31 Million Viewers Watched Donald Trump’s Inauguration

Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration drew a television audience of 38 million.

President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday was watched by 30.6 million television viewers in the U.S., according to initial estimates released by Nielsen on Saturday.

The ceremony attracted fewer viewers than President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, but more than the first swearing-in for President George W. Bush, according to the ratings agency.

Nielsen’s estimate includes live coverage on 12 networks from approximately 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Nearly 38 million people watched Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the highest inauguration rating since 42 million viewers tuned in when President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981.

Viewership for Obama’s 2013 inauguration declined by more than one-third, though the drop-off is typical for second terms.

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land,” Trump said in his inaugural address. “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.”

Trump predicted record-setting attendance for his inauguration, but huge crowds didn’t materialize. Aerial photos showed a relatively empty National Mall, compared to an estimated 1.8 million people who attended Obama’s 2009 inauguration, which is still the attendance record. Turnout for other presidents’ inaugurations was much lower.  

Many people also gathered in Washington on Friday to rally against the 45th president. Protesters clashed with police, injuring two officers, shortly before Trump took the presidential oath of office. More than 200 people were arrested. In a of couple cases, people vandalized nearby businesses.

On Saturday, people around the world demonstrated in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, demanding that the Trump administration respect human rights and equality.

The view of the National Mall from above during President Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony.
Lucas Jackson/Reuters
The view of the National Mall from above during President Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony.

Trump’s team faced a number of obstacles planning the inauguration festivities. While Obama’s inaugural events featured celebrity guests and performances from the likes of Beyoncé, Trump reportedly struggle struggled to attract top entertainers.

Some musicians, including singer Charlotte Church, said they declined invitations to perform. Broadway singer Jennifer Holliday canceled her scheduled performance, and a Bruce Springsteen cover band backed out of playing a gala earlier in the week in deference to Springsteen. One member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir resigned in protest rather than sing for Trump.

Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old “America’s Got Talent” runner-up, sang the national anthem. On Thursday, 3 Doors Down, Toby Keith, Sam Moore and others performed in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration.”

Inauguration planner Tom Barrack defended the lack of A-listers as a conscious choice to instead “surround [Trump] with the soft sensuality of the place” for a “much more poetic cadence than having a circus-like celebration.”

During a press conference earlier this month, Trump said the inauguration would feature “tremendous talent.”

“We’re going to have a very, very elegant day,” he said. “I think we’re going to have massive crowds because we have a movement.”

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This story has been updated to reflect the rising number of arrests for Trump’s inauguration.

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