Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How Many People in the D.C. Tea Party Protest?

It appears that the Park Service no longer does crowd estimates, but it made an exception for the Obama inauguration. The Capitol Police used to, but don't anymore, either -- at least not officially.

It appears that if someone got an estimate from "the" Capitol police, it is more likely that they got an un-official off-the-cuff estimate from "a" Capitol police person. More likely, the people making the estimate were basing it on the Park Service's estimation of the crowd at the Obama Inauguration.

The argument on Malkin's blog and the comparative photos combined with the USA Today's explanation of how the crowd was estimated at the Obama inauguration -- it is clear that one million is a reasonable estimate for this crowd.

Update: These guys are thinking like me, only they're a bit more rigorous and explain some of their rigor-osity ;-) . They basically agree with me.

Nother update:
These people also published their methodology to follow. Certainly at the extreme lower end, there were at the very, very least 500,000 people there at the time the photo in question was taken. But they don't know if it was taken at the height of the crowd or how many people were on sidestreets. This one seems to show a possible max using the time-lapse analysis, adjusted way down for possible margin of error, to 1.2 million -- again close to the number I think is probably closest to reality. Something on the order of a million people.

Update, the Third:
Another estimate, alluded to by Glenn Beck on 9/16, that I hunted down. This is also one that actually defends itself and lets us know how they arrived at their numbers. I respect these the most. This one estimates 1.7 million -- which I could believe.

Update, the fourth (9/23): This guy found me and linked his analysis, coming up with a significantly smaller number at 135,000. He certainly put a lot of effort into it, and as such it qualifies as an estimate to link whether you buy it or not. I talk about my take on it here.

Things not to believe: Anyone who says there is an official park service, DC Police, or fire-department estimate. There are estimates BASED ON previous estimates from the park service and/or police, however. My guess is that people misread and are incorrectly attributing the estimate directly to official services -- none of which has been or will be done.

There is also a picture from the Promisemakers march in 1997 that was first circulated as a picture from this event and that opponents are using to "debunk" the high counts. A bogus picture does not debunk all the valid pictures or especially the traffic cam time lapse. It may have been circulated by the opposition for this very purpose -- like the tactic of inflating estimates preceeding the march so that actual counts will fall short and they can call it a failure. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but it is certainly plausible and would be Aninskyesque. (Of course, I've also read some of the "debunkers" claim it is from the Obama inaguration -- which clearly it isn't since the trees are fully leafed out ... and they wouldn't be on Jan 20).

Clearly, if there were 1,000,000 people at the Obama inauguration, there were certainly that many last Saturday.

So somewhere between 1 million and 2 million, with decent arguments for 1.2 and 1.7 million. When somebody says "10's of thousands" they should be asked to back it up with something, anything. There were no "official" estimates, so where did theirs come from? That is a fair question.

Technically, I suppose, it was 10's of thousands. About 100 10 Thousands.

Even if it were as few as 500,000 ... that's still 5 times more people than my wildest dreams, and 50 times more than what I've read is typically considered a "success".

For the inauguration, DC Mayor Fenty estimated 1.8 million, but that was based on more than what was seen on the mall. This included estimates of side streets and the parade route as well.

The Washington Post had used an arial photograph for it's inauguration estimate and estimated about a million on the mall, and apparently an Arizona State journalism professor revised that down to about 800,000.

Either way, it is quite clear that the number of people there Saturday is easily comparable. There were a ton of people there, and "tens of thousands" doesn't begin to cover it.

It was way more than just significant, and I believe we have been heard.

What they do about it will be interesting to watch.

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