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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A brief note on crowd estimates

Just in case you missed it, CBS hired an aerial photography company to take aerial pictures of the Beckapalloza and then give the photos to three different photo analysts to do independent crowd estimates.

The firm came up with a consensus estimate of around 80-90,000 people which is a great deal less than a simple glance at the Washington Post crowd photos would suggest. The difference may be accounted for by the fact that a substantial number of the people at the event were sitting in lounge chairs or otherwise picnicking, which would create a much more spread out crowd along the sides of the mall than a packed in, everybody standing event. This would not be easily detected in standard long-distance crowd photos but would be visible in large scale blow-ups with magnifying glasses and grid lines.

In any event, the organizers only pulled a permit for 300,000 people which suggests that they knew from the number of busses Freedomworks had chartered and other sources that the attendance would be unlikely to actually come close to that number — not to mention the 500,000 to a million numbers conservative boosters are now bouncing around (in fact, if the number of chartered busses and parked cars yesterday indicated that three to four hundred thousand people had been wandering around D.C., you can bet your bananas we would have heard about it by now)  

The significant fact is that CBS estimated attendance of slightly less than 100,000 is not substantially different than the number that it was estimated showed up last September for the 9/12 rally. It suggests that while the Freedomworks/Fox machine has clearly succeeded in creating a reliable, rotating cadre of demonstrators it can pull out for events, it has not been able to generate a steadily growing army.

The people who came to yesterday’s rather peculiar revival meeting/pep rally are likely to be a somewhat different group than those who would have come to another raw-meat anti-Obama- fest like last Septembers’ protest. But it’s beginning to appear that that with both kinds of conservative audiences, Freedomworks/FOX may have reached a plateau in the numbers it can currently pull for either kind of hootenanny.

There are two more big conservative events scheduled for later this fall. The attendance at those events will help to clarify the picture.

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