How many Palin/Haley fans WERE there Friday?

Since the event on Friday, a number of people have raised the following question: How many people showed up for the Sarah Palin/Nikki Haley rally?

Well, gee, I don’t know. But I do think the published reports were off.

Here’s an e-mail I received from a reader:

Dear Brad,

It was good to read your post after you attended the Haley/Palin rally.  At a party tonight we were discussing the fact that the majority of us had heard on WIS TV and other TV news programs that 150 people attended the rally – none of us had.  But the State newspaper today said there were over 1,000 people at the rally – now that is a rather large discrepancy in the numbers.  Since you attended I am hoping you can clear up this question – the larger or smaller crowd?  I looked on Youtube but no video from the rally and The State’s video only shows a close up of Palin without a crowd shot.  Thanks for your time reading my e-mail.

Hope you are well.

We miss you at The State – we miss a lot from The State now.  Monday’s paper is laughable.

Here’s how I responded to that:

Thanks for reading. I think it was between those two numbers. I think 1,000 is too high, and I’m pretty sure 150 is too low. But I’ve learned from long experience that crowds are notoriously hard to estimate.

I told my wife last night that it was 300 or 400, but that was just a guess…

And that’s about as much as I know. All I know is that it was a very enthusiastic crowd. And from where I was standing, I couldn’t even see the protesters that featured so prominently in news reports. Others who were there were certainly aware of them, to the extent that Sarah Palin addressed them — but I couldn’t tell whether that was because they were actually so noticeable, or because she thrives on persecution by political opponents; it’s part of her idiom. Perspective — where one stands or sits and what can be seen or heard from there — is everything. I failed to do what I usually do at such events — get up on the steps and look down for an overview — partly because the people I was wedged behind had indicated that they would DEEPLY resent anyone who squeezed in front of them (some folks who had brought lawn chairs and camped out, and had a profound sense of entitlement as a result — they were, as Tea Partiers tend to be, very cranky about it).

Fortunately, Anne McQuary, a former photographer with the state, had done the usual thing, and had gotten a shot of a significant portion of the crowd. You can see it above. I asked Anne whether I could use it here, and she said yes, but only if I posted something else with it, because she regarded the crowd picture as boring. Hence the picture below. But for a better sense of Anne’s talents, check out her blog. I really liked some of the shots she got on the periphery of the crowd (including some of those protesters). Also, there’s her main business website.

By the way, Anne said she and her husband — whom she described as a “huge Palin fan” — estimated the crowd at between 300 and 500. I think they were right.

16 thoughts on “How many Palin/Haley fans WERE there Friday?

  1. Brad

    And if you are the first one to spot ME in that crowd picture, you win a free one-year subscription to

    Second prize: A TWO-year subscription to…

  2. bud

    As far as I can tell there’s not a single non-white face in the crowd. Seems like the GOP has a long-term demographic problem if this is the type of crowd they can expect.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    I agree with you and Jack Kuenzie–it looks like the sort of crowd that would fit into a 400/500 seat church.

  4. bud

    You can count 20 people on the front row of this view (not counting the camera girl in front). Assumming there are about 10 more on either side out of view that would give a total of 40 folks per row. You can then count at least 9 persons deep near the left side. The middle portion probably has more perhaps 15 but its difficult to count (Brads big head is in the way). Lets go with an average of 12 deep. 12 x 40 = 480. 400-500 seems about right with 600 not implausible. 150 is definitely far too low, 1000 seems a bit high.

  5. Brad

    Yikes! Bud and I are in agreement AGAIN. This is great…

    Yeah, I estimated the depth at 10, and guesstimated (based on my memory of what the crowd looked like beyond the limits of this photo) that the front row was close to 40. So around 400, possibly more.

    But that was after looking at Anne’s photo. Before that, I was going on a gestalten impression of the crowd, and had roughly the same result. I’m way intuitive. Call me Rain Man.

  6. Brad

    And Mark, you may have won the prize! If you mean the guy in the front standing row positioned so that it looks like the flagpole is almost growing out of the back of his dark coat…

    Another way to put it is that I’m one of the only people in the crowd (as opposed to up on the steps) WEARING a coat…

  7. Michael P.

    “Another way to put it is that I’m one of the only people in the crowd (as opposed to up on the steps) WEARING a coat…”

    Your point being? You blast people for discussing how people look, yet you distinguish yourself as being the only one wearing a coat. Most people don’t feel the need to wear a coat and tie when it’s a casual event and 90+ degrees outside. Loosen up and take that flagpole/stick out once in a while.

  8. Brad

    Meaning that I was trying to tell Mark which one in the picture was me, and started to say it looks almost like the flagpole is growing out of my coat, and then realized, DUH, the easiest way to tell him is that I’m the only guy I see in the picture WEARING a coat.

    Yet another one of my typical, WYSIWYG comments…

  9. Matt

    Man, I’ve never seen so many people just begging to have someone explain to them how they really shouldn’t be cheering for those two women, and how they’re being played like the fiddles that they are…


  10. Michael P.

    I don’t think anyone would have notice who was wearing a coat and who wasn’t from the distance the photo was taken. You could have just as well said that you were the guy with the scowl on his face.

  11. Mark Stewart

    Yes, the guy in the coat in the crowd. “Under” the flag. I thought that my descriptive phrase of your location would rile someone up. But everyone seems more content to focus on your coat and the benign look of the crowd.

    Seeing the flag in the photo made me wonder what Palin’s handlers thought of the Confederate battle flag flying over the rally; were they quietly pleased or were they grinding their teeth and hoping no one would photograph the speakers from the steps behind?

  12. Burl Burlingame

    Let’s assume also that most of the crowd was standing, except for the front row. There are a lot of heads, but they’re not crowded.
    I learned long ago that crowd-estimating is an arcane art. Who was there on purpose and how many are kibitzers?
    Based on Anne’s photo, roughly 500 is a good estimate. But only an estimate.


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