Every now and then, often connected to politically contentious events like the “Restoring Honor” or “Rally to Restore Sanity” in 2010 or Egyptians taking to the streets in early 2011, you will see articles about how officials and media sources estimate the number of people who attend. Here is a primer on crowd counting. Some of the possible new methods could help give us accurate and not politically-driven counts:
And, as Yip said in a statement about his study, a good way to count crowds could cut through the politically motivated stats we put up with now. “In the absence of any accurate estimation methods, the public are left with a view of the truth colored by the beliefs of the people making the estimates. The public would be better served by estimates less open to political bias.”
I look forward to improved crowd counting.
The actors are different but the question is the same: just how many people attended Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally over the weekend in Washington, D.C.?
This is not an isolated question. The National Park Service bowed out of official estimates back in 1997:
The media, in years past, would typically cite the National Parks Service estimate, along with the organizer’s estimates (which tend to be higher). But the Parks Service stopped providing crowd estimates in 1997 after organizers of the 1995 Million Man March assailed the agency for allegedly undercounting the turnout for that event.
So various media outlets (and interested parties) are now left making competing estimates based on aerial photos, how much space a person typically takes up, and other sources.
There has to be a better solution to this problem.