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

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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.