How many people attended Trump's inauguration? Here are the estimates.

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It's been a contentious issue throughout the first week of Donald Trump's presidency: How well-attended was his inauguration?

Though it is difficult to get an exact number of people who attended the Jan. 20 ceremony, the estimates paint a very different picture from Trump's own claims. 

What is the White House saying? 

Donald Trump giving a speech on Jan. 21.Source: Pool/Getty Images
Donald Trump giving a speech on Jan. 21.  Pool/Getty Images

Trump claimed Saturday that the media was misrepresenting the number of people who witnessed the inauguration. 

"I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field," Trump said during a meandering speech at the CIA. "I said, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people." 

Press secretary Sean Spicer also made his own estimate, stating in his first official White House briefing that the 2017 inauguration was "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe."

But what evidence are these claims based on? 

What are the facts?

Protesters crowd the National Mall at the Women's March on Jan. 21, 2017. Source: Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Protesters crowd the National Mall at the Women's March on Jan. 21, 2017.  Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Trump's estimate seems to be based entirely on his own observation. In Spicer's press conference, the press secretary only cited figures pointing to  the ridership on the Washington public transit system. Spicer claimed more people used the transit system for the 2017 inauguration than for Barack Obama's last inauguration. However, WMATA officials told the Washington Post a different story: The numbers were lower on Friday than they were for the last two inaugurations and lower "than that of an average weekday."

The New York Times asked crowd scientists Marcel Altenburg and Keith Still to use photographs and video of the day to make estimates. They said the number of people who attended Saturday's Women's March on Washington was around three times that of Trump's inauguration.

Current estimates

Though there are no official approximations for the turnout, Altenburg and Still estimated that around 160,000 people were at the National Mall and surrounding areas in the hour leading up to Trump's speech on Friday. 

Politifact listed the estimates of past inaugurations and said Obama's 2009 inauguration, which drew an estimated 1.8 million people, is "generally considered a record for people on the National Mall."