Back Thursday | 31 May, 2012
Counting Crowds & Crowds Counting | Jacobs' Method
During the last 25 years Georgian capital has experienced a diverse history of political meetings in its central areas including peaceful demonstrations, rallies with radical political demands, “tent towns” and so forth. The higher the attendance, the more legitimate the protests are often seen to be. As a result, the figures themselves usually are contested, sometimes in significant controversy.
This discussion has now been revived, after the new political coalition around Bidzina Ivanishvili started its full-scale entry into politics by gathering supporters on central Freedom Square of Tbilisi. Widely varying estimates of attendance numbers have been put forward. The Georgian police estimated the size of crowd as 30 000, supporters of Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream claimed that about 300 thousand people gathered on Freedom square, however, independent observers suggested 80 thousand attendees had come to the rally.
So how does one approach crowd size systematically, short of counting every single head in the crowd? One robust method has been suggested in the 1960s by Berkeley journalism professor Herbert Jacobs who employed this approach to count the number of protesters against Vietnam War at his home university. According to this method, the area should be divided into smaller sections in order to assess how loosely people stand in the crowd. If people stand at an arm’s distance, one person will cover 0.93 square meters. In a second case, when people stand close enough but not pushing each other, the area taken by one person is estimated 0.42 square meters. And finally, in a tightly packed crowd 0.23 square meters are covered by one person, or, putting it differently an estimated four people are in one square meter.
In order to describe how Jacobs’ method is used for crowd estimation, we divided the entire space of Freedom square and neighboring streets into 29 parcels. Then we calculated the areas of the parcels using geographic information systems (GIS) and tried to analyze two photo images taken from Georgian Dream’s official Facebook page. The photos show 13 parcels in the central and southern part of the square and consequently, estimates are done only for these areas.
The analysis is based on visual assessment of density in the parcels, following Jacobs' method. Where people are
- standing tightly we assigned the score 0.23,
- crowded but not pushing each other, we assigned the score 0.42
- standing in a distance of one person’s arm, we used the score of 0.93.
Now, several remarks on these numbers:
- Jacobs' approach only yields rough numbers, +/-20%.
- numbers work both ways, as various people have pointed out; it may be worth coming to some sort of consensus in Georgia how many people Freedom Square holds when it's crowded, and then apply that consistently.
- ultimately, quantity is not legitimacy; a protest that is conducted civilly and that gets people to engage and discuss is plenty legitimate, so the entire numbers game is a bit problematic, and not only in Georgia.
That being said, we think the Jacobs method is as good as it gets, for quick assessments. Since we only counted 13 parcels, out of 29, and want to make this method more broadly available, we encourage our readers to be involved! Crowds can help count crowds.
Use our raw materials to assess the number of attendees. Download the spreadsheet, use the robust Jacobs method, and send it back to us when you are done. Also, feel free to send your comments and estimations, the topic is open for discussion!
02.08.2015 | Sunday
Citizenship is a difficult concept to define as its definition changes over time, depending on social, legal, and political contexts. Importantly, it not only encompasses structural (legal and institutional) aspects, but also the everyday practices through which people relate to the state and other citizens. This blog post examines some of the perceptions as to what makes a good citizen across the South Caucasus and the extent to which people’s actions match up with their stated opinions on good citizenship.
06.02.2015 | Friday
This blog post has shown that those that recently participated in public meetings or rallies, as well as more educated and wealthy Georgians perceive peaceful demonstrations as more efficacious in affecting government decision-making, compared to those who have not recently participated in meetings or rallies, are less educated and are poorer.
27.09.2012 | Thursday Since 2011, CRRC has been involved in the Memory, Youth, Political Legacy, and Civic Engagement (MYPLACE), a four-year project funded by the European Commission. The project aims at exploring young people’s social participation in Georgia influenced by historical contexts of totalitarianism and populism in Europe. Among others, the objectives of the MYPLACE project include (1) conceptualization of...
12.05.2016 | Thursday Following the first ever peaceful transition of power in Georgia’s 2012 parliamentary elections, the country improved its position in the Freedom House and Polity IV democracy rankings. Results from the latest polls, however, show that public support for democracy in Georgia has declined over the past few years.
22.05.2016 | Sunday
The blog analyzes if the special precinct really mattered for the Sagarejo by-elections or wether it was the ethnic voting patterns, which explain the differences.
10.03.2014 | Monday
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14.01.2015 | Wednesday
Today, less than democratic regimes face a serious dilemma – how do you buy votes to win an election without becoming an international pariah. Unfortunately for a society and fortunately for an autocrat, the wheels of power and administrative resources an incumbent regime wields provide ample opportunity to manipulate electoral outcomes through what are otherwise legitimate activities related to state spending and coercion.
22.02.2013 | Friday
The Georgian parliamentary elections in October 2012 attracted much international interest and ushered in an important turn in Georgian politics. In 2012 CRRC conducted four waves of a Survey on Political Attitudes in Georgia for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) (funded by the Swedish International development Cooperation Agency-SIDA) in order to track changes in public opinion associated with these major political events.
03.04.2014 | Thursday Note: This blog is re-posted from the MYPLACE project's blog. The original MYPLACE blog can be found here.
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16.06.2014 | Monday
Dustin Gilbreath, a Research Consultant at CRRC-Georgia, has written electoral notes on yesterday's municipal elections which were published on the web-magazine Liberali.The notes discuss the results of the elections, background and significance, changes to electoral legislation, the pre-electoral environment, capital candidates and campaigns, and outlook for the Georgian Dream Coalition and United National Movement. To read the electoral notes, please click here.
23.06.2014 | Monday
On June 15th Georgian voters headed to the polls in local elections. There were problems leading up to the elections as detailed in last week's electoral notes. At present, results show a significant portion of positions in local government going to Georgian Dream Coalition (GD) candidates, though a number of races will go into second rounds.
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04.08.2014 | Monday
On July 28, 2014 charges were announced against the former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili concerning the abuse of power. These charges make Saakashvili the highest public official from the former UNM government to be summoned by the prosecutor’s office to date.
22.09.2014 | Monday
Following 2012 parliamentary elections, attitudes toward Russia in Georgia shifted. While in 2011 51% of the population considered Russia the main enemy of the country, in 2012 only 35% reported the same. Moreover, the share of Georgians who named Russia as Georgia’s main friend increased by 5%. In a post on the CRRC-Georgia blog, this change was explained by a so-called “spiral of silence”.
13.11.2013 | Wednesday Ann Bennett Lockwood, an American attorney, politician and author once said that, “If nations could only depend upon fair and impartial judgments in a world court of law, they would abandon the senseless, savage practice of war”. For many, the credibility of a government is judged by the fairness of itsjudicial system. For instance, Michel Rosenfeld (2001) argued that a fair justice system creates respect and faith in government by saying that, “If a citizen implicitly or explicitly endorses a law or legal regime, the latter can be considered subjectively fair.”
12.01.2012 | Thursday
In the wake of Russian protests for free and fair elections— one of the hallmarks of democracy— the international community has again turned its attention on democratization in the post-Soviet region. Democracy, in its various forms, represents something different to everyone. So what does it mean for Georgians? Do Georgians consider Georgia to be a democratic state in its present form? What are their perceptions of democracy?
15.02.2012 | Wednesday
Widespread apathy and a general disbelief that good can come from joint effort is a major factor hindering social capital in Georgia. One indicator of apathy can be fatalism, meaning the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable. This blog explores the level of political fatalism in Georgia and how it is connected to Georgians’ perceptions of the country’s current political course and democracy.
19.03.2011 | Saturday
How do multimedia phones affect the way media is consumed and circulated? Katy Pearce lays out interesting findings for the case of Armenia in the International Journal of Communication (5, 2011, pp. 511-528).
23.03.2011 | Wednesday
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21.06.2011 | Tuesday
A joint seminar on May 10th by Clingendael Institute and the Eurasian Partnership Foundation (EPF), and co-sponsored by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, debated the state of the rule of law and democracy in Georgia, and the possible application of a “Georgian model” in the wider region.
01.07.2011 | Friday
In the spring of 2011, CRRC ran the Caucasus Barometer Report Writing competition and now we have an opportunity to present some of the results to you. The first report is written by one of the competition winners, Keti Khachidze, and addresses trust in the Georgian president. Here is a quick summary of her findings and analysis.
07.07.2011 | Thursday
We have previously mentioned our participation in MyPlace, a collaborative research project covering 16 countries, and financed by the EU under Framework Program 7. Their website is now up! What is it all about? To quote from the MyPlace website:
25.01.2010 | Monday
What are the reasons for low public engagement in the South Caucasus? Why, despite the large number of non-government organizations, civil society remains weak in all three countries?
02.07.2010 | Friday
Freedom House has just released its Nations in Transit report for the year 2010. The report attempts to quantify democratic development in Central European and Eurasian states by observing 8 separate factors – for instance, Electoral Process and National Democratic Governance - which affect the level of democracy in a given country. Each category is graded on a score of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress, and 7 representing the lowest. Much of the media attention has typically focused on Russia.
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10.03.2008 | Monday
Admittedly we forgot to post this earlier, but we believe it is even more important with the upcoming elections in Georgia.
02.05.2008 | Friday
Quite some time ago, Georgia has opened up the party archive of the Soviet period to researchers. This is a pretty unique resource for researchers. Georgia deserves particular praise for making that history accessible. Few countries of the CIS have made this important step.
03.05.2008 | Saturday
21.05.2008 | Wednesday
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12.06.2008 | Thursday
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04.08.2008 | Monday
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05.09.2008 | Friday
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20.10.2008 | Monday
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27.10.2008 | Monday
Yet another index, and one with little happy news. How does world press freedom look? Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group founded in 1985 ("investigate, expose, support"), has just released an international ranking. A total of 173 countries are ranked, and the Caucasus is in the bottom third.
28.11.2008 | Friday
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05.12.2008 | Friday
In June Freedom House released its 2008 annual Nations in Transit Report covering January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2007. The Nations in Transit Report covers the democratic performance of the former Soviet Union, the former Soviet satellite states and the former Yugoslavia.
02.11.2006 | Thursday
Nani Chkhaidze compared the 1990s election programs of parties that won the elections in the South Caucasus.
03.12.2007 | Monday With upcoming elections in Georgia, the attention is back on a theme that otherwise often gets neglected: what does the Georgian electorate want?
19.11.2007 | Monday With all the attention on Georgia, it may be interesting to revisit Georgia's most recent performance as seen by international organizations. As it happens, the Millennium Challenge Corporation offers a such an assessment through its annual scorecard, just released last week. This scorecard is a meta-index, drawing on data from the World Bank Institute, Freedom House, IFC, WHO, UNESCO and a few other organizations.
21.11.2016 | Monday The results of the 2016 Parliamentary elections in Georgia reveal some interesting patterns about the representation of women and ethnic minorities in Georgian politics.
15.08.2017 | Tuesday Bidzina Ivanishvili resigned from the post of prime minister of Georgia on November 20th 2013, and in his own words, “left politics“. Speculation about his continued informal participation in the political decision-making process began even before he resigned and still continues. Some politicians think that Ivanishvili gives orders to the Georgian Dream party from behind-the-scenes, while others believe that he actually distanced himself from politics. Politicians, journalists and experts continue to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, a majority of Georgia’s population thinks that Bidzina Ivanishvili is still involved in the governing process and that his informal participation is unacceptable.