Did Trump Have a Bigger Crowd at His Inauguration Than Obama Had at His?
Trump may have had the largest inaugural crowd in 2017 if you count all sources online, on TV, and in-person, but his in-person turnout was provably smaller than Obama’s.
Since the general claim going around is that Trump did or didn’t have the biggest in-person crowd, we will fact-check that and not the less verifiable, but far more reasonable assertion, that he had the biggest total turnout via all sources, including online and TV, combined.
Opinions aside, the fact is, Trump’s in-person crowd was average for a Republican (if not a little above average according to current estimates cited below).
This shows that Trump is fairly popular, for a Republican (see data below, this is a literal statement, not a judgment call).
Despite the impressive and respectable numbers, this was not “…the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe” as Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed.
Instead, this is, as Spicer later corrected himself, [here paraphrasing his interview with Hannity], “maybe true if you combine in-person and around the globe, both online, on TV, and on the streets”… but this is a “belief,” not a fact. The fact is, regarding all viewership… we still don’t know for sure (well we know in-person, and TV was an overall lower turnout, despite Fox’s very impressive ratings, but for online we don’t know).
Thus, with all the above in mind, the idea that “Trump’s in-person crowd is bigger than Obama’s in-person crowd size period” is an “alternative fact.”
Trump’s crowd size was impressive, but to say it was bigger than Obama’s crowd size is a falsehood as you can tell from the video below which shows live time-lapse aerial footage or the image below comparing the front and back. As you can see they both look impressive from the front, but from the back, Obama’s clearly looks bigger. Looks don’t prove anything alone, but the general data seems to back up that our eyes are not lying to us.
NOTE: Please note the comparison image is used for educational purposes only, citations are on the image. You may think the 12 pm one is capturing the crowd at a low-point (I did), but the time-lapse footage shows that this is as big as the crowd got. You could claim people weren’t supposed to walk on the white coverings but there are thousands of people freely doing so. You can say people are in the streets, or somewhere else, but we have seen no evidence. Feel free to comment with any further images below; we are earnestly just concerned about the truth here.
The above is true essentially any way we look at it in spite of all Spicer’s initial quips about metro numbers, estimates of data, no one having official numbers, aerial images, grass coverings, the weather, or anything else (all of which are debunked here and elsewhere).
Some media may have made Trump’s look small on purpose, maybe to troll him, maybe to play politics. One must consider that Trump also questioned whether Obama was a Kenyan or Muslim, so what is it that everyone was expecting?
Trump’s crowd was not bigger than Obama’s; it wasn’t “the biggest” in-person, and it wasn’t the biggest on TV according to estimates below. We’ll have to wait to see if it will be the biggest worldwide all sources considered, but we can, for now, say, it just was what it was. The facts are the facts.
NOTE: Something was “bigger” on that Saturday when Spicer spoke. As Spicer held his conference, people around the world broke records as [what is likely] the largest Demonstration in modern history occurred, “the Women’s March,” a march in support of women’s rights and equality of the sexes in light of an activist-right American presidency which includes upcoming measures to allow for discrimination of LGBT and women. The attention paid to the debate over the facts regarding crowd size unfortunately drew attention away from the march and the growing number of executive orders passed around and following the events, including an immigration ban signed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day which came in conjunction with no mention of genocide against the Jews by the White House and resulted in legal immigrants being detained. See a List of Trump’s executive orders from Fox News.
TIP: The crowd looks way bigger from the front where Trump was standing. It is reasonable to believe he believed his crowd was the biggest. However, as new data comes to light, we can confirm that this was not the case. There is only one truth. The mandate isn’t to get the truth right every time; it is to make an earnest attempt to report it.
Watch a timelapse of the National Mall on Inauguration Day. This time-lapse video proves Spicer wrong in real time. Many in the media were nervous about something that is provably false being presented as true, but to be fair to Trump’s team, charges of fake news aren’t always fully unfounded. Still, if the answer is “we need more honesty and integrity” Trump’s PR team is hardly setting the right precedent. We aren’t saying Spicer lied purposefully; we take his word he didn’t. But the door was opened for the conversation, and thus we have it.
Here’s a breakdown of ridership of the most recent inaugurations (source):
|Day||Metro ridership (whole day)||Metro ridership (as of 11 a.m.)|
|Jan. 20, 2017 (Trump inaugural)||570,557||193,000|
|Jan. 21, 2013* (Obama inaugural)||782,000||317,000|
|Jan. 20, 2009 (Obama inaugural)||1,100,000||513,000|
|Jan. 20, 2005 (Bush inaugural)||583,803||197,000|
*Note: Obama’s second inauguration was Jan. 21 instead of Jan. 20, which fell on a Sunday.
Here are the attendance estimates for past inaugurations:
|Trump, 2017||250,000 to 600,000|
|Barack Obama, 2013||1 million|
|Obama, 2009||1.8 million|
|George W. Bush, 2005||400,000|
|Bill Clinton, 1997||250,000|
|George H.W. Bush, 1989||300,000|
According to a New York Times analysis, the crowd at the National Mall was about one-third the size of Obama’s in 2009. As you can see from the numbers above, this is roughly correct.
As you can see from the data above, Trump just had an average (for a Republican) turnout. This makes sense honestly if you consider, generally speaking, Republicans are favored by a rural minority in modern times, not a majority and that Trump won based on the winner-take-all system, not the popular vote. In words, given the other numbers floating around, the actual crowd is similar to what would have been reasonable to expect.
So, we know when Sean revised his statement to say TV, internet, and live, that at this point for the statement to be true internet must account for all the differences and the exceed the numbers.
Anyway, if majorities won the Republican ticket, then we wouldn’t need the winner-take-all system. The women’s march, the crowd, all this, it stands only to remind Trump of one thing, “We are a diverse nation of many, and the Republicans are substantial, but not a majority. If the country is run in a way that doesn’t respect all parties, if it becomes a far-right activist government, smaller and smaller crowds for pro-Trump and larger-and-larger crowds standing in solidarity with women, LGBT, and other non-political minorities is to be expected.”