The crowds from Obama’s in 2009 Javier Zarracina/Vox (on the left) compared to Trump’s inauguration in 2017 (on the right).

What do the inauguration crowd sizes tell us?

There is lots of attention being given to the relative size of the crowds that gathered for the inauguration of Obama and Trump.

Most of the mainstream media are claiming that Trumps crowd was smaller than either of Obama’s inauguration crowd sizes. And many of them are extrapolating from that to say that therefore Trump is less popular than Obama. But what is the truth?

Just what ‘was’ the crowd size?

In truth, it appears that we just do not know. There are many photo compilations that claim to show both the Trump and Obama crowds. To judge crowd size from these pictures, we would need additional information, like the relative time of each photo, were people spaced approximately evenly in both photos and were people roughly allowed into the same areas in both photos.

This, I do not think we know.

At the first press conference of the new administration, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer claimed that it “was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.” I am not sure what information he bases this on, nor do I know if this was a wise statement for him to make. Many people are calling, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” to his claim. Some people, e.g. Love B Scott are claiming that Trump only got 1/7th the crowd that Obama achieved.

Today, I do not want to enter into the truth or otherwise of the claims about crowd sizes, nor enter into the argument around the facts of the relative crowd sizes. What I want to ask is…

What do these crowd sizes tell us about the relative popularity of Trump and Obama?

So, What does crowd size tell us? It says the ‘Crowd Size!’ Everything else is interpretation or conjecture.

The crowd size says nothing about the motivation of the people who are, in attendance or who are, not in attendance.

So what possible reasons could there be for a different turn out for Trump?

1 It could be that Trump is, (as is being claimed), less popular than Obama.

But are there alternative interpretations?

2 Could it be that the crowd for Trump was smaller, (if it was) because during the last few months there has been a great deal of talk about anti-Trump protests? In fact, there has been a lot more than just talk, there have been a great number of anti-Trump protests and many of them violent. There have even been a large number of people calling for the assassination of Donald Trump. Could it be that people have been scared off by these events, or maybe they are worried that their children may see the murder of the President or see violent protests?

3 Could it have something to do with the local popularity of Trump and Obama? The inauguration is held in Washington DC, (District of Columbia). In the District of Columbia, in 2008 Obama received 245,800 votes, that is over 92% of the vote. In 2016, in the District of Columbia Trump received only 12,723 votes, that is only just over 4% of the vote. Hillary Clinton locally to the inauguration received 282,830 votes over 90% of the vote. Is it possible that the fact that Obama received 88% more ‘local’ votes had an effect on the crowd size? How far would you travel to see the inauguration?

So if Obama’s local vote was very nearly 20 times that of Trumps local vote, is could be considered a triumph for Trump that there were some many people there.

In Texas Trump got 4,681,590 votes, sixteen times Clintons vote on DC, but it is well over a thousand miles to Washington. And the view is better on the TV.

So, what do the turnout numbers tell?

They tell us the turnout. Nothing else!

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