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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An estimated 65.6 million Americans watched the second TV presidential debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, about 2 million fewer than the audience for the candidates' first matchup, according to TV ratings data.
Final Nielsen data on Wednesday showed that Tuesday's town hall style debate, in which the two contenders fielded questions from undecided voters in a sometimes contentious encounter, was broadcast across 12 U.S. network and cable television channels.
The Some 67.2 million viewers watched the first debate on October 3, making it one of the top 10 most-watched presidential debates of the past 30 years. Both TV debates have attracted more viewers than those during in the 2008 presidential election.
But Obama and Romney have so far failed to capture the audience riveted by the vice-presidential encounter four years ago between Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joe Biden, which was watched by 69.9 million people, which ties as second most-viewed debate ever.
According to Nielsen, which began collecting such debate data in 1976, the most-watched presidential debate on U.S. television was the October 1980 encounter between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, which drew 80.6 million viewers.
Other high points were recorded by the three-way Bill Clinton, Ross Perot and George H.W. Bush matchup in 1992 (69.9 million), Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1976 (69.7 million) and Michael Dukakis and Bush in 1988 (67.3 million).
Obama and Romney will debate one more time - on Monday - before the November 6 elections.
Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Doina Chiacu