Accuracy in Media

Politico took aim at the discussion about crowd sizes at political events and campaign rallies, especially as the 2020 Democratic Party field is beginning to narrow ahead of the primaries next year. Politico contributing editor Bill Scher compared the data guru’s take that crowd sizes do not matter to political reporters’ emphasis on crowd sizes.

The article, entitled, “Why Warren’s Big Crowds Are a Big Deal,” discussed the pros and cons of crowd sizes and compared the views of data gurus and political reporters, and introduced a third view: both parties are right.

Politico listed the attendance numbers at several rallies which Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) held, one in New York City, another at the University of Iowa, and one campaign event in South Carolina. Estimates for her New York City rally was about 20,000, while about 2,000 attended her event in Iowa, and only 925 at the University of South Carolina-Aiken.

The article pointed out that Warren’s campaign is taking selfies with rally attendees to encourage grassroots advocacy on a local level, such as neighbors becoming canvassers for her campaign while influencing their friends and family on social media. In conjunction with holding campaign events and attracting large crowds, Warren could capitalize on what other past candidates have not: translating large crowd sizes into votes.

Politico noted that Howard Dean had large crowds in his 2004 candidacy, but did not build grassroots support to win the Iowa primary and lost to John Kerry. Also, it pointed out that Bernie Sanders had large crowds in 2016, but failed to translate crowd sizes into votes in the primary.

Politico was correct in distinguishing the two schools of thought about crowd sizes: crowd sizes may not matter to data gurus who focus on votes and not crowd sizes, and political reporters emphasize crowd sizes too much. Its conclusion appears to be correct, which is that both parties are correct and in order to win a campaign, it is probably the best campaign practice to merge the two to maximize one’s votes. Warren’s campaign could be a testing ground to validate Politico’s analysis in the 2020 primary.

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