MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tens of millions of people watched Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. The latest numbers show that 18 million people watched the debate on CNN.

Americans are watching in record numbers, getting a front row seat to bare-knuckle exchanges that have become common during this election cycle.

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Now, a new survey by Pew Research found that 69 percent of Americans say they have watched at least some of the Republican and Democratic debates. That’s compared to 43 percent of Americans who watched debates in 2008, the last time there was an open seat for president.

During lunch hour at the Best Philly food truck in downtown Minneapolis, Mike Jenniges called the debates entertaining.

“I am entertained by Donald Trump,” said Jenniges, as he cooked up a Philly cheesesteak. “He’s an interesting fellow.”

Trump has been a draw in every Republican debate so far. The first debate on FOX had 25 million viewers. The first CNN debate: 24 million.

For Tuesday night’s CNN rematch the viewer numbers dropped to 18 million.

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“It’s just kind of a circus. This is a political circus,” said Jamison Lennox of Minneapolis.

Even if they did not watch all of the debates, many Americans are watching parts of them, and are aware of Donald Trump.

“Is it beneficial that we have a caricature of a candidate? Maybe,” said Andrew Scheglowski, of Minneapolis.

Democrats are benefitting from a renewed interest in politics also: 15 million people watched their first debate, and 9 million watched the second.

While those numbers are far less when compared against the Republican debates, they are much higher than any of the primary debates in 2007 and 2011.

Pew Research says the debates are driving unusual voter interest.

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Some 86 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Democrats, and 72 percent of independents say they are thinking about the candidates.