How Many People Attended the September 12 March in DC?

Tim Blair disputes Charles Johnson's estimate of the size of the September 12 rally. Johnson wrote:

Here's the Washington DC Metrorail service information for Saturday, September 12, 2009:

September 12, 2009: Metrorail: 437,624
Comparable Metrorail Ridership 1 Year Ago: 362,773

The difference between these two figures is -- 74,851.

Oddly enough, this almost exactly matches the unofficial estimate given by a Washington DC Fire Department spokesman, who estimated the crowd at 60,000 to 70,000 people.

Blair writes

comparing September 12, 2008, to September 12, 2009, won't yield reliable information - because the first date fell on a working day (Friday), while the second was a Saturday.

Which is is why the comparison was with Saturday September 13, 2008.

Blair quotes Mark Kelly of the Heritage Foundation:

For a fair comparison, we looked at the Saturday after Labor Day in 2008, which is when September 12 fell in 2009. On September 12, 2009, 437,624 rode metro rail. By comparison, on the Saturday after Labor Day in 2008, 202,528 rode. The difference is 235,096.

Kelly is comparing September 12, 2009 with September 6, 2009 instead of September 13. Why does this make such a difference?

Let's look at all the figures for Saturdays in September:

Saturday, September 03, 2005 295,346
Saturday, September 10, 2005 330,385
Saturday, September 17, 2005 301,752
Saturday, September 24, 2005 464,398
Saturday, September 02, 2006 252,003
Saturday, September 09, 2006 302,374
Saturday, September 16, 2006 300,746
Saturday, September 23, 2006 283,604
Saturday, September 30, 2006 349,339
Saturday, September 01, 2007 312,378
Saturday, September 08, 2007 310,703
Saturday, September 15, 2007 358,071
Saturday, September 22, 2007 325,301
Saturday, September 29, 2007 372,669
Saturday, September 06, 2008 202,528
Saturday, September 13, 2008 362,773
Saturday, September 20, 2008 360,571
Saturday, September 27, 2008 339,213
Saturday, September 05, 2009 300,963
Saturday, September 12, 2009 437,624

The numbers range from about 300,000 to 350,000, but there are two outliers: September 6, 2008 with 202,528 and September 24, 2005 with 464,398. What happened on those two days?

On September 6, 2008, [Tropical Storm Hanna hit Washington DC](…):

>The first tropical storm to hit the Washington area this season left the region windblown and thoroughly soaked yesterday, causing one fatal car accident, flooding dozens of roads and turning quiet suburban creeks into fast-rising, muddy rivers.

Clearly it is wrong for Blair and Kelly to use the day Hanna hit DC for comparison.

And September 24, 2005 was [the day of an anti-war march](…):

>D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who walked the march route, said the protesters achieved the goal of 100,000 and probably exceeded it. Asked whether at least 150,000 showed up, the chief said, "That's as good a guess as any.

Based on the increase in ridership over a normal September Saturday, the September 12 march was 80% of the size of the September 24, 2005 one, suggesting there were at least 80,000 people and possible as many as 120,000.

And what did Blair say about the September 24 anti-war march? ["Numbers seem a little inflated."]( To support this he linked to Charles Johnson, whose arguments that he numbers were inflated were somehow much more persuasive to Blair in 2005 than they are now.

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For what it's worth, Nate Silver weighed in on this as well, citing ABC which itself cited the DC Fire Department (~70,000, same ballpark as your estimate), but highlighting American right-wing commentators exaggerating the numbers by a factor of thirty. It ain't just Blair being innumerate and disingenuous.

All that said, there's an unspoken irony here. The rally was full of teabaggers and dripping with anti-government rhetoric -- but here, we see figures from the socialized public transit system used to estimate their size. Reminds me vaguely of the "keep the government out of my Medicare" signs I saw in some of the images.

(You can even find examples of an anti-transit congressman complaining the transit was poor, if your irony meters have a safety fuse.)

So, given an expected ridership of 300k to 350k, with an actual ridership of 437k, are we looking at 80k to 140K? Because, when I take the train into the city, I generally take it out again, which would boost the ridership by two. Ie. actual numbers are 40K to 70K, which is what (normal) people have been saying all along.

Honest question: shouldn't you divide the transit ridership swell by 2, given that people would be riding it both ways?

And it's doubtful that everyone took transit; without a modal split it is impossible to extrapolate the number of people at the event from the transit figure.

Also for what its worth:

The photo behind the 1 million plus estimates was from the 1997 Promise Keepers event:

The 09/12 organizers estimated, on about Sept. 9th, estimated that their own numbers would come in at about 25-50 thousand:

The notion that they undercounted by a factor of 10 or 20 or more is pretty far-fetched.

Am I to understand the baggers took public transportation to a rally protesting too much government?

By trollhattan (not verified) on 22 Sep 2009 #permalink

Trollhattan, that's not how it works at all. You see, Teabaggers all drive Hummers, since evil liberals hate giant SUVs. Because DC's roads were all clogged with Hummers, the liberals who normally would have been driving their tiny eco-cars were forced to take Communist public transit. A Teabag Hummer could easily hold six All-American hero-people, whereas the typical liberal Corolla might have only a couple liberal weenies. Therefore, the number of people displaced by the Hummers was probably only about one-third of the number who were *in* the Hummers; thus, the Commie-transit figure represents only about one-third of the TRUE total. If Tim Lambert were better at math, he would have noticed that 74,851 times three is sort of close to 235,096, which proves that the Heritage Foundation numbers are accurate.

>You just cited Charles Johnson of LGF?!? I expect some heads to explode here.

Charles Johnson looked into the issue of global warming on his own and was disgusted by the amount of lying he found on the side of the skeptics, it seems to have been a big eye-opener for him. For example now he's regularly linking to and endorsing the videos of Peter Sinclair. He's also pretty vocal against truthers, creationists and right wing extremists.

Bluegrue: Don't you get it? By speaking out against the fringe, he's a secret liberal and must be excommunicated!

Ben: It's said that the left is more interested in being right than winning. As a result, when we see insightful work from the "other side", we don't see citing them or talking to them as betraying the team.

This may cause your head to explode*, but all of the liberals I deal with on a personal basis - including myself and folk waaaaaaay on the economic left fringe - would much rather spend hours speaking to Andrew Sullivan than to Michael Moore.

*(intended with all the semi-sarcastic comedy that your use of the same statement implied; sadly my version can't single your position out without coming across as condescending, though that is not my intent.)

All that said, notice that Tim isn't actually citing LGF as a source here - he's highlighting how Blair takes offense at LGF (despite citing LGF as evidence against the Iraq War protests) and favorably cites the cherry-picking Heritage Foundation (there's no other way to describe picking clear outliers as if they were baselines). Mentioning that X cited Y is not the same as citing Y.

Trollhattan: See #1. Note the congressman I mentioned was a tea party supporter as well (I can't remember if he was speaking at the rally or not).

We need a remote sensing image of the rally to compare to the remote sensing image of the inauguration. Then do a simple area coverage algorithm to determine the approximate number. Even if the numbers aren't accurate, the ratio of area covered by humanity would be instructive.

Then divide by 1000 to determine the number of African-Americans in the September 12 crowd compared to the number of African-Americans in the Inauguration Day crowd.

Inauguration Day image from space

I recently disparaged the climate science knowledge of the September 12thers, based primarily on the know-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing stances of their leading lights.

Right, CJ at LGF is a good guy, but he's pro-Israeli, and anti-Islamist, something you guys aren't really noted for supporting.

And I expect that Jeff Harvey is gnashing right now, as CJ is not exactly fond of Harvey's good buddy Hugo Chavez.

Bruce Sharp,

Thank you for the valuable lessons on teabagger behavio(u)r. I'm clearly not thinking big enough. At least the people's commie transportation systen was safe for a brief, shining day with all those patriots on board, armed with their cutting-wit signage.

If nothing else, the lusty ex post facto participant number inflation ("two million strong!") has given us a new resource: #Michellemalkinmath

I can't wait to tell my family about my four-hundred percent pay raise!

By trollhattan (not verified) on 23 Sep 2009 #permalink

So Tim is now relying on notorious anti-Palestinian racist (and frogger) Charles Johnson. Sad.

Brian D:

> All that said, notice that Tim isn't actually citing LGF as a source here - he's highlighting how Blair takes offense at LGF (despite citing LGF as evidence against the Iraq War protests) and favorably cites the cherry-picking Heritage Foundation (there's no other way to describe picking clear outliers as if they were baselines). Mentioning that X cited Y is not the same as citing Y.


> Right, CJ at LGF is a good guy, but he's pro-Israeli, and anti-Islamist, something you guys aren't really noted for supporting.

Therefore, ben is not guilty of ad hominem attacks, but Tim Lambert is. Quo errat demonstrator.

Yes, every bit as ironic as AGW alarmists creating a huge carbon footprint to fly across the globe to attend one of
those Al Gore Kool-Aid drinking events.

Awww, Meg doesn't like the two-faces of his God to be seen.

He's popped up to cry like a little baby at us.