Slate today takes a stab at explaining how crowd size is determined, pointing to various methods employed to estimate how many people came to the inauguration on Tuesday.

While news outlets guessed anywhere between one and two million came out to the big day, a Arizona State University professor looked at satellite images and concluded that no more than 800,000 people were there.

Based on the satellite images I’ve seen, both at Slate and elsewhere, the crowd in question is on the Mall, clustering around jumbotrons.  But these images fail to take into account the vast number of people who were on the streets right next to the Mall, walking or jogging from here to there, nor does it count the folks who weren’t actually watching (because they were stuck in tunnels and on lines waiting to get in).

That there were only 800,000 in attendance seems to me a bit ridiculous.  240,000 people alone had tickets; at least 20,000 were reported to have been kept from viewing due to crowds.  That leaves just over 600,000 to have been on the Mall or on the streets surrounding.  Fishy.

It would be great to solve this definitively, but I fear it’s a question without an answer.


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