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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. 
Rough estimates show that in the moment of taking photos there were about 31.000 in 13 parcels alone, with many parcels uncounted





Now, several remarks on these numbers:
  1. Jacobs' approach only yields rough numbers, +/-20%. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
12.05.2016 | Thursday

Public support for Democracy is on the decline in Georgia

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.
22.02.2013 | Friday

Before and After the Elections: Shifting Public Opinion in Georgia

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

Alternating Pasts, Changing Futures

Note: This blog is re-posted from the MYPLACE project's blog. The original MYPLACE blog can be found here

Claims to 2000 or even 3000 years of nationhood are not difficult to find in Georgia as has been amply documented (see Pelkmans 2006, Suny 1994, Rayfield 2013). The former president Mikheil Saakashvili was even fond of using the earliest human skulls found outside of Africa, in Dmansi in Southern Georgia, as proof that Georgians were “ancient Europeans.” 
23.06.2014 | Monday

Trust in local government in Georgia

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
04.08.2014 | Monday

A look at (in)Justice in Georgia as charges are brought against ex-President Saakashvili

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

Russia as a threat: the Ukraine crisis and changing public opinion in Georgia

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”.
15.02.2012 | Wednesday

Fatalism and Political Perceptions in Georgia

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.
02.07.2010 | Friday

Post-Soviet States’ Democratic Decline: Results from Freedom House Report

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.
12.04.2012 | Thursday

Georgian get-togethers: Private Problems versus Politics

In September 2011, CRRC on behalf of Eurasia Partnership Foundation and EWMI G-PAC conducted a nationally representative survey on Volunteerism and Civic Participation in Georgia. Georgians were asked how often they get together and discuss private problems and politics with their friends and relatives (who do not live in their houses).
03.05.2008 | Saturday

Exit Polls | Take Two

Readers may recall that we voiced some concern with regards to exit polls. Here is a fascinating account, first-hand, by a reputed pollster having what they describe as an "Adventure in Baku".
21.05.2008 | Wednesday

Parliamentary Elections in Georgia | ODIHR Observation

With today's elections in Georgia, various themes come to mind. Certainly, elections have come a long way: by now, the Georgian government employs a series of highly qualified consultants, including Greenberg Quinlan Rosner of Clinton-fame, plus a Brussels-based PR firm, as well as working with experienced teams from the Baltics. This, then, is no longer the game of the 1990s, or 2003. Election observers know that they in turn will be observed, and maybe that's how it should be.
04.08.2008 | Monday

Georgia: Women's Participation in Politics

Women’s participation at all levels of elections in Georgia is diminishing. As the Caucasus Women’s Network (CWN)reports, women inGeorgia were less represented in terms of candidates in the last parliamentary elections than in any previous parliamentary elections inGeorgia’s democratic history. On the other hand, women’s low political participation in elected bodies belies women’s activeness in civil society institutions, where females appear to be very active.
19.11.2007 | Monday

Georgia's Performance? | Millenium Challenge Corporation's Meta-Index

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.
15.08.2017 | Tuesday

Who makes political decisions in Georgia: What people think

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.