VIDEO: Whitestock Crowd Estimate of 87,000 Explained

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AirPhotosLive.com calculated that about 87,000 people (give or take 9,000) attended Glenn Blech's SPFathon, Whitestock.

It was the only scientific estimate made of the number of people at the rally.

Conservatives, including Blech, said it was more like half a million.

This from the people who count votes the same way they count heads.

Curt Westergard is the president of AirPhotosLive, the group that came up with that crazy 87K number. He has some pretty impressive clients. He provides aerial imaging for "the U.S. border patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, companies building skyscrapers, and cell phone companies trying to decide where to build their towers, and others."

Blech relies on his belief in geese formations.

To calculate attendance at the Beck rally, AirPhotosLive.com used what is called a surveillance aerostat balloon to take pictures from both above the event and closer to the ground. In the video above, which was provided by the company, you can see some of the images used to come up with a figure.

Westergard:

"We took a lot of shots under the trees and higher up by just changing the balloon altitude," he said. "So what might have been a negative with an airplane and certainly a negative with a satellite was a very strong position with a balloon."

Thorough, huh?

I can hear all the Whitestockers protesting now: "Oh sure, but they probably took the images at the time when attendance was at its lowest."

Wrong:

The photos were taken at noon, which Beck's representatives suggested would be the peak of the event...

Blech's reps suggested that, so it must be true. This is one time I'll trust them.

Westergard partnered up with Dr. Steven Doig of the University of Arizona, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and crowd estimate expert.

Doig estimated that there were 80,000 people at the "Restoring Honor" rally, while AirPhotosLive.com estimated that there were 87,000 people, a statistically insignificant different since the margin of error was 9,000. CBS News elected to use the higher estimate.

So at best, 96,000 people attended, not quite meeting the minimum Blech requirement of 100,000.  It really doesn't matter, though. I've been listening to a number of people who backed up my original assertion that, if you see a gigantic structure and a lot of media, huge TV screens, and loudspeakers smack dab in the middle of a public space, it's more likely than not you'll hang around to see what's happening.

Oh, and then there's that little matter of there being about 80,000 in the area on any given day anyway, per those journalists who frequent the place.

Size really doesn't matter... or so I'm told.

There is even more, and it is well worth the read.

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  • http://www.plantemedicinale.comuf.com Dieterd

    87.000 people ?Hmm.. I think more!Excellent video.

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  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Ha!

  • http://twitter.com/jkarsh Jason Karsh

    Holy, Jeez, Laffy you're using science & math here. Didn't we outlaw those things circa fall of 2003?

  • Clancy

    Just thought I would pass this along from the local transit agency, WMATA, or Metro: "Metrorail provided 510,000 trips on Saturday, 08/28. Previous three saturdays: 385,987 (07/31), 323,997 (08/07) and 335,796 (08/14)"

    This roughly means that ridership was between 125,000 and 175,000 above "normal." Most of this increased ridership likely attended the Beck event on the Mall. However, a good number might also be protesters or attendees of the event sponsored by Rev. Al Sharpton. In fairness, the Sharpton event did not seem to be very large, so I seriously doubt much of the ridership came as a result of that event.

    It is important to also remember that this is an increase in the number of "trips." In all likelihood, if someone rode the Metro to the event, they also rode it to leave. So, ridership increases indicate that approximately 60,000 to 85,000 additional round trip passengers used Metro on the day of the Beck event. A "half-million" people attending the event would result in a similar increase in ridership (as even folks who come in on buses park far from the Mall and use Metro to get to the area of the event).

  • mj

    "Conservatives, including Blech, said it was more like half a million."

    That's because Becky was using "wingnut math".

    The same wingnut math that

    - made the 25% -- or fewer -- that supported Dumbya Bush at the end a majority, and
    - made the attendance at last year's similar Beckapalooza [the 9/12 rally] "more than 2 million" {and used footage from another event to prove it}