So much for his huge ratings draw. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, the crowds at Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremonies on Friday fell well short of expectations.
The record for inauguration attendance belongs to President Obama, who delivered his first inaugural address before an estimated 1.8 million people in 28-degree weather. His second inauguration was smaller, but still drew roughly one million people. Last month, Trump tweeted his intention to set a new attendance record.
Well, we all did it, together! I hope the "MOVEMENT" fans will go to D.C. on Jan 20th for the swearing in. Let's set the all time record!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2016
Planners were less bullish, preparing for a Friday crowd of roughly 800,000 people. Early estimates aren’t in yet, but photos taken on the mall suggest even those estimates were wildly optimistic. Here are two crowd shots, one of President Obama’s 2009 inaugural, the other from shortly before Trump’s.
Perhaps sensitive to the paltry turnout, the Trump administration turned to photo wire services for an image to use as the background to the official @POTUS Twitter account, which changed hands right at noon. As one eagle-eyed Twitter user noted, Trump’s team used a photo taken during President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, before quickly changing it.
— Freddie Campion (@FreddieCampion) January 20, 2017
The crowds around Washington, D.C. were thin throughout the city all morning. On social media, D.C. residents and reporters tweeted photos of empty city streets and quiet train platforms. WMATA, which operates the city’s Metro and bus system, tweeted ridership statistics from recent inaugurations that show Trump’s crowd paled in comparison to the two previous ceremonies, and even fell short of traffic on a typical Friday.
Metro Ridership: As of 11am, 193k trips taken so far today. (11am 1/20/13 = 317k, 11am 1/20/09 = 513k, 11am 1/20/05 = 197k) #wmata
— Metro (@wmata) January 20, 2017
Estimating crowd sizes is tricky business. Experts rely on the size of the location and some approximation of how tightly people are standing together to draw rough estimates, but the best results come from aerial photos from directly overhead. Given the sensitive nature of presidential inaugurations, flyovers directly overhead are impossible.