Preliminary Results from Black Rock City 2014

The online survey is now live at and we encourage all 2014 citizens of Black Rock City to complete a survey as soon as possible so that your voices are represented in the 2014 report. Results won’t be ready until after the online instrument closes.

For the burning-data curious, we have some preliminary results for you! For the past 3 events, the Black Rock City Census Lab has randomly sampled entering participants through Gate Road. In addition, for the first time this year, we surveyed riders entering through Burner Express Buses (BxB). From these shorter, demographic surveys we get a baseline demographic profile that helps us weight the online survey. This post is a preliminary insight into the participants who attended the event in 2014 taken from this data.

This post reflects information collected from 1,367 entering participants randomly sampled at Gate Road from Friday pre-event through Wednesday mid-burn and 1,239 riders of BxB entering from Reno and San Francisco from Saturday, pre-event through Wednesday.

Though these results are preliminary, they do provide some new insights into the steady evolution of the event.



The median age this year is between 32 and 33, a little younger than last year.

_0_19 1.41%
_20_29 38.15%
_30_39 33.60%
_40_49 14.18%
_50_or_more 12.66%



Percentage of women at the event increased another percentage point to 41%

female 41.12%
male 57.99%
fluid 0.89%


Time Since First Burn

Virgin population continues to increase up from nearly 37% two years ago, to nearly 41% of the population in 2014.


virgin 40.69%
_1or2years 21.72%
_3or4years 12.66%
_5to7years 9.90%
_8to11years 6.14%
_12to15years 6.45%
_16or_more 2.44%

Language and Residence

Where do you reside?

California and Nevada residents continue to dominate the event.

NV 6.49%
CA 47.44%
US other 26.57%
Canada 6.12%
Other 13.37%


Foreign residents

After declining from 2012 to 2013, foreign participants rose to 19.5% in 2014.


English as a first language

Perhaps associated to an increase in foreign residents, but also a hint at a greater diversity of the event, the number of individuals indicating English as their first language declined significantly to 81%.


Purchasing your ticket

A vast majority (2/3) purchased their ticket this year from the Burning Man organization either directly or through the STEP program. Nearly 25% purchased their ticket from someone known to them. The growth of STEP coincides with a 50% drop in purchases from Strangers (potential scalpers) when compared with data from 2012. Additionally, 92% obtained their ticket for face value or less. Though the remainder who weren’t lucky enough to receive their ticket this way may feel frustrated, the data indicates that the issue of scalping has been mitigated significantly.

Where did you buy?

BM 60.57%
STEP 6.37%
Someone_known 24.56%
Stranger 3.26%
Reseller 1.46%
IDK 0.56%
No_ticket 0.68%
Other 2.55%
Where did you get your ticket (2012 vs 2014)?

Where did you get your ticket (2012 vs 2014)?

How much did you pay?

Less 6.51%
Facevalue 79.15%
More 3.86%
Gift 6.52%
IDK 0.98%
Other 2.98%


Politically, burners have historically been significantly more likely to vote than the default US population. This year, we again see that 85% of those eligible to vote in US elections actually do. Moreover, a 51% majority voted in at least 3 of the last 4 federal elections, significantly above the US population.

Another interesting fact to note is that, for the first time, US voting participants, when asked about party affiliation, chose “unaffiliated” (nearly 41% of eligible voters) in larger numbers than any other political party, reflecting a broad trend of dissatisfaction with US political parties. The combination of being such a strong voting population and also being unaffiliated may imply that politicians need to pay attention to their Burner voters in their district. This maybe especially wise in Nevada and California where Burners represent a non-trivial portion of their constituencies.

Eligible to vote                                        77.2%

not_eligib 22.78%
didnt_vote 11.23%
voted 65.99%


Voting frequency

Number of times voted in last 4 US federal elections if eligible:

     0 13.00%
     1 19.92%
     2 15.53%
     3 11.42%
     4 40.13%


Political Party Affiliation

 Not_eligible 23.27%
 Democratic 30.86%
 Republican 4.40%
 Libertarian 3.74%
 Green 2.36%
American_Ind_Party 1.58%
 Other 1.60%
 Unaffiliated 31.57%
 Multiple 0.62%

Written by Scribble;

Data compiled by Hunter and entered on-playa by Census Lab volunteers.


10 responses

    • Hi Josh,
      the Census databases are not accessible to the public. Due to the ethical requirements of the research project, the raw data have to stay confidential. We started discussing about ways to give a certain access to data analyses to people outside of the Census while keeping the individual info and raw data confidential (e.g., with software like tableau), but such project will probably not happen in the near future due to its complexity (size and complexity of databases, costs associated to software use,…).
      Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost aka Hunter

    • The 2014 results come from the preliminary analysis of the random sampling at the gate (around 2500 respondents). The 2013 and 2012 results come from the final analyses of the gate sampling (between 1000 and 2000 respondents each year if I remember correctly). These random samplings at the gate are done with a short questionnaire (approx. 10 sociodemographic questions) to correct the biases in the online survey due to self-selection.
      Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost aka Hunter

  1. Pingback: 2014 Census Results | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. I appreciate the work you folks are doing and was happy to complete the census. That said, I found the sections on party affiliation biased with some pretty base assumptions of the left and the right, most especially as it relates to environmental concerns. There are ways to write the question in a complementary and accurate way for both ends of the spectrum.

    Second, as a participant, it would have helped me to know where all this information would be presented, especially in answering the more personal questions. Because the census is Burn-related I felt more free to answer, but I was concerned the information I provided might be stored somewhere in my permanent file…

    • Hi Scott and thanks for your feedback. The questions about the left/right continuum are modified versions of standard questions used in international population surveys (e.g., the World Values Survey), but I agree that they could be improved. One of our challenges was to make it relevant for both US residents and foreigners, which can be tricky since the meaning of left and right can slightly vary between countries. If this set of questions comes back in the future, we’ll do our best to improve them.
      As for your concern about data management and access, I can tell you that we have very strict rules about confidentiality. I’m the one who cleans and manages the original database after the survey is closed (I’m a researcher in my default world life). Without going into details, most researchers working with the data are only given a partial database in which the more sensitive info is removed unless required for their project (e.g., zip code, text answers). Also, nobody outside the Census has access to the database, not even the Burning Man organization. We provide them with reports and population estimates on many topics, but they don’t have access to the database.
      Finally, the results are used (a) to help the Burning Man organization advocate for the event, and (b) by Census researchers from different fields (anthropology, psychology, urban studies, public health,…) who write research articles from the results.
      Here’s one example of Census results used to show the impact of the event on the Nevada economy ( and one research article on emotion regulation at Burning Man (
      Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost aka Hunter

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