Home National Politics CBS’ Estimate of 215,000 at Stewart/Colbert Rally is Wildly Low

CBS’ Estimate of 215,000 at Stewart/Colbert Rally is Wildly Low


Just at it did with the Beck/Palin rally, CBS News commissioned an independent, non-political firm (AirPhotosLive.com) to estimate attendance at the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Sanity/Fear event yesterday. The result? 215,000 yesterday for fun and sanity vs. 87,000 for Beck/Palin’s bizarre version of “honor.” Good news, right? Well, yeah, except that the AirPhotosLive.com estimate of yesterday’s rally is almost certain to be wildly low. How so? Three reasons.

1. For anyone who tried taking Metro yesterday, you know that it was completely FUBAR. For instance, if you lived any further east than Vienna, Virginia, you had close to zero chance of getting on an Orange Line train in the hours leading up to the rally. I personally tired to do this around 10-11 pm at Virginia Square Metro in Arlington, and it was “nothing doing.”  

How many of the tens of thousands of people who wanted to take Metro but were not able to do so ever got to the rally is beyond me, but my guess is that the vast majority simply gave up after realizing it was hopeless. Presumably, the same thing was happening on other lines, as the Metro person I spoke to at Virginia Square told me that Metro hadn’t put any additional trains on,  based on an apparently complete breakdown of communications between rally organizers and Metro, but simply operated on normal, very slow (trains at 12-13 minute intervals) weekend schedule.  It was a complete debacle, and I don’t remember hearing anything of this sort happening at the Palin/Beck rally. WTF?  Anyway, add tens of thousands of people who tried to go the rally yesterday but were stymied by Metro. {For instance, see this photo of what it looked like yesterday on Metro}

2. Along with tens of thousands of other people, probably a lot more, I finally made it to the outskirts of the rally, but not to the rally itself.  The photo above was taken as I walked with two friends (Eric of Blue Virginia and his wife, Marna) from the Chinatown area towards the rally. Note that we were surrounded by thousands of people, and also note that this was occurring on pretty much ever street heading south from the District towards the rally.  At one point, I looked up one of the streets, probably around 7th or 8th NW, and saw swarms of people as far as the eye could see trying (but not succeeding) to make their way towards the rally. {For instance, see this photo – “The crowds were just too large for the National Mall – here we see them spread out into 7th St. NW, past the National Gallery of Art.”}  None of these people, almost certainly tens of thousands (if not more) if you count all the people on all the streets, are not even in the AirPhotosLive.com photo, which the company used to make its estimate, and which was only of the Mall area itself.

3. Finally, who knows how many people heard about the impossibility of making it to the actual rally, and simply repaired to a friends’ living room, bar, whatever. Obviously, none of those people were counted.

The bottom line: even not accounting for #1-#3 above, there were more than twice as many people on the Mall itself to participate in the “Sanity” rally yesterday compared to the Beck/Palin rally in August. Accounting for #1-#1 above adds tens of thousands of people, possibly hundreds of thousands, to the 215,000 estimate. Let’s be conservative, and say 100,000 rallygoers were jampacked on DC streets heading south, stuck on Metro platforms, sitting at bars in DC, etc. That would easily push the numbers yesterday over 300,000, but my bet is that the real total was a lot higher than that.

P.S. A straw poll of rallygoers by Celinda Lake, “86 percent of those surveyed plan on voting Democratic next week, another 8 percent said they are undecided with 1 percent planning to vote Republican.”  Also, “An overwhelming majority (90 percent) approved of the President, including more than half (56 percent) who approve of him strongly. In contrast, only 10 percent disapproves of the President (2 percent strongly.)” Quite a contrast to the Beck/Palin rally in August, which was pretty much a 100% anti-Democratic, anti-Obama affair.

UPDATE: Some video from yesterday’s rally.

  • teacherken

    taken from atop Washington Monument at 1:55  –


  • Mike1987

    10 people total showed up. Fox demographics are as follows:

    4 Mexicans

    4 blacks

    2 whites

    further break down

    10 are socialist

    of the 10, all are gay

    of the 10 gays, all had abortions.

    of the 10 gay abortionists, 7 were Muslim and 3 were atheists

  • Jim Webb Dem

    Right on about the Metro … never seen anything like it. At Springfield the line went from the platform up the stairs, across the windowed walking bridge, down the stairs and out across the parking lot … the line was typically 4 or 5 people across. Packed is an understatement.

    Left Springfield and drove to Crystal City to park … took a cab over … far less hassle.

    The crowd was packed and most were very disappointed that there wasn’t greater volume (speakers) and a jumbo tron or two out past the Satellite Vans at “mid” field .. the mall.

    Absolutely right about the streets being filled with people …. it was a great day for DC restaurants.

    All in all it was a beautiful day to be in DC and I was very happy to see that so many showed up … for what started out to be an Internet based whim to restore:


  • blue bronc

    It was definitely not Whitestock!

  • Catzmaw

    heading to the Arlington Courthouse Metro I decided to hike to the Arlington Cemetery Metro.  It wasn’t very crowded at first, but when we hit Rosslyn it got pretty crowded and then more piled on at Foggy Bottom.  This was around 12:30.  

    Getting off at Smithsonian one was thrust almost immediately into a dense crowd, and you could see people peeling off and going to the side streets to get a little more space.  I couldn’t hear a thing, so kept slithering and sliding through the little spaces opening up here and there – mostly claustrophobes fleeing the packed confines – and eventually made my way to the Reunification tent where I was halted dead in my tracks and could go no further, able to hear the proceedings but utterly unable to see anything in front of me.  A woman lifted a corner of the tent for a while and I caught a glimpse of a distant jumbotron.  Not until later did I discover that the stage was actually several hundred yards beyond it.  I had a sign, but the crowd was so thick it spent most of the rally rolled up in my little backpack.  After two hours of standing my 53 year old feet were screaming and I decided to back out and try to find a place to sit down.  Leaving the front was almost impossible.  It took about 15 minutes for me to make my way on a diagonal in the general direction of Constitution (I’d come up on the Independence side).  I got so exhausted from this effort that I ended up spending another 20 minutes just standing where I’d landed, probably only about 100 yards from where I’d started.  

    Being a DC/Northern Virginia girl born and bred I’ve been to a few rallies.  To paraphrase Joe Biden, THIS was a BIG F***ING RALLY.  

    Once the rally ended, people still remained for a very long time, many posing with their signs while others took their pictures.  I got caught in another people-jam at the National Archives and eventually started working my way back to the rally stage.  At first I just wanted to see how to leave, but then I realized that this was an opportunity to take a lot of pictures and gauge just how large this event was by walking back to the source.  I turned on the video camera on my Blackberry and was shocked at just how far I had to walk to get close to the stage, and even then there were barriers in place and I could only film from a fair distance.  Plus, there were people packed at the barriers with the same idea.  

    Un-frickin’-believable.  That’s what I have to say about the size of this event.  Eventually, I decided to leave, but the Metro stations looked so crowded I just kept walking until I made it back up to Courthouse.  Not sure my feet are going to forgive me anytime soon.  I must have walked at least 10 miles.

  • I like this photo!

  • Fantastic photo courtesy of Cliffords Photography :

  • kindler

    I personally gave up after waiting over an hour at Metro for a train — all were packed.

    Loved it on the radio, tho!

  • Not long ago, there was an article in the WaPo about someone who was traveling along to the Glenn Beck rally with a group of Tea Party activists.  I actually know a lot of people who self-identify as Tea Party people, and I thought the article was sympathetic to them as people without being necessarily in agreement with their ideas.

    But what struck me in the article was when the group arrived at the Metro in DC, one of the escalators wasn’t working.  Now, anyone who lives here knows that this happens ALL THE FREAKING TIME.  Indeed, to have all of the escalators running would mean, certainly, that these are the end times indeed!

    Instead of seeing this as life in the city (and perhaps why we need to actually fund public transportion) the interpretation of this particular group of Tea Partier (from Dayton OH, where I have quite a bit of family, actually) saw it as a way “they” were keeping them from getting to the rally.

    To me, this is the most frustrating aspect of the Tea Party.  It isn’t just that you recognize that your own life isn’t going, perhaps, the way it should be.  (If you grow up in the Rust Belt, you are very likely to come to this point of view at some point.)  It’s that there are people out there who are actively, and at the most basic level (escalator mechanics???) who are out to take what you have from you.

    I’m not saying that there hasn’t been (and currently isn’t) the systematic stripping of wealth from one class and moving it to another (I come out of WV, after all.)  But it’s exhausting that this is continually put on things like escalator mechanics, and not at areas such as fat-cat banks and lobbyists making sure that business doesn’t happen as usual, no matter who is at the losing end.

    This, to me, was the biggest diffence between the two rallies.  Not that there wasn’t plenty of grumbling about things like Metro, or lack of planning, what have you.  But the realization that sometimes people are just flawed human beings and you have to live with that.  There’s no reason for perpetual grievances, because maybe instead of thinking about what’s been taking from us, we should be reminded of what we have and what we can give back.

  • Yes, there are crazy people even at sanity rallies! (see the 9/11 “truthers” – Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!)