Preliminary BRC Census Results from Burning Man 2015: Older, More Experienced, Less Californian Than We Thought

censuslogoThe BRC Census Lab conducts research on participants in Black Rock City and online after the event. We ask lots of questions about demographics and people’s experiences, because we want to accurately describe the community and the culture of Black Rock City.

Below are the preliminary results from the Random Sample, the short paper form filled out by randomly selected participants entering Black Rock City. This is just the beginning of the 2015 data that will be released by the Census Lab. But for us to produce more findings, we need you — YES, YOU — to participate in the Black Rock City Census online survey, which is live now at If you attended Burning Man 2015 and have not already completed this survey, please take the time to do so now! The survey will close October 15. The more people who complete it, the more accurate our data will be. If everyone participates then it will be a true Census of Black Rock City!

The preliminary results are based on 2,270 forms collected by Census volunteers from randomly selected vehicles along Gate Road and Burner Express buses entering Black Rock City between Sunday, August 24 and Tuesday, September 1. This is the first year we’ve been able to begin random sampling five days before the event officially started, which means this year’s data will include a larger number of early arrivers to Black Rock City. This may explain some of the differences observed in this year’s results. The final results of the Random Sample may differ slightly from these preliminary ones.

Basic Demographics



Burner Experience



Burning Man Ticketing



Language and Residence



U.S. Politics



Please remember to participate at before the survey closes. Some people think that because they participated in one of our data collection efforts on playa, they have already “done their Census”. Actually, our main survey is the online one. The online survey is not the same thing as the Random Sample, the short paper form you may have filled out when you entered BRC if you were randomly chosen. It is also not the same as the Field Notes books that you may have filled out at Census Lab or at Center Camp Café.

Even if you participated on playa, we still need your online survey data in order to generate good information about Black Rock City’s 2015 population. So please participate today!

You will see that we ask a lot of questions in the online survey. This is because the Census is a collaboration between event organizers and several groups of researchers studying the BRC population and Burning Man culture. Part 1 of the Census asks basic demographic questions about the population. Organizers use these findings to advocate in favor of the community and the continued existence of the annual burn in Nevada, especially in dealing with authorities at the local, state, and national levels of government. Part 2 asks questions about this year’s event, which various departments inside the organization need to know in order to plan for next year. Part 3 are questions written by researchers conducting social science projects. These Burning Nerds plan to publish the results in academic journals and books. And if you are still hungry for more questions after Part 3… there are options at the end of the survey to continue helping these scientists with their research.

Be sure to come back here for future blog posts about our methodology and about what we learn once we start analyzing the online survey data!

About the author: Census Team

Census Team

The Census Lab is a volunteer team of information geeks, academic researchers, students, and general data nerds who have surveyed Black Rock City (BRC) residents since 2002.

17 Comments on “Preliminary BRC Census Results from Burning Man 2015: Older, More Experienced, Less Californian Than We Thought

  • Dmitry Word says:

    Can someone post a link to other surveys (there is a link at the end of the actual census) thanks!

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  • Oz says:

    Wow, only 4% registered Republican and 30% unaffiliated! That’s interesting.

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    • randy dell says:

      That is Sad

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    • Buena Chica says:

      At one point we had almost 30% Republicans…… I blame it on our Democrat “Progressive” friends making it feel so unsafe for us to even in a private survey feel safe enough to write our Party affiliation…… such is the sad turn of our times when democrats feel so free to classify Republicans and blame us for EVERYTHiNGH that is bad with society and judge us ever so quick and harsh… ( i.e. we must all be against same-sex weddings, etc….)….. we see this ALL OVER our Facebook page….. and NOW ON PLAYA!! But be very assured that next time you are on Playa, that sexy bartender serving you a Margarita could very well be a Republican!! <3 )'( <3

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      • Dorothy says:

        You complain that the democrats are blaming the republicans for everything, but look at your first sentence- you start by blaming the other side. And you are afraid to write your affiliation on a survey no one will see? That, my dear, is true paranoia.

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  • Daniel says:

    What is sad is that politicians and political parties are self-serving in their natures. They think that people should be dumb followers of their self-promoting agendas, and they are transparent about it.

    It is disillusionment, plain and simple. Politicians only want to control the behavior of the populace and take their money. That’s all they want to do.

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  • Towhead says:

    I’m curious how the ticket source distribution compares to the actual number of tickets sold in each onsale. I think it might give us an idea of how accurate these numbers are since BMORG already has that data as a baseline.

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  • disco says:

    This is preliminary. Don’t make many assumptions or comments until the final. Is released.

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  • adam says:

    Would you guys consider making (an anonymized version) of the raw data available? We burner data scientists can each take a shot at slicing it up, and see what additional conclusions we can come to about our glorious community.

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  • big johnson says:

    for some reason race isn’t broken out. Its 87% white, 6% asian, 4% latino, 2% other and 1% black

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  • big johnson says:

    only 3% over face value. Lying

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  • T.T. says:

    In regards to race/ethnicity I would be interested to see it broken out more.
    Asian covers all of Asia including india, etc.
    White/Caucasian includes al “white people” including Europe, “Middle East”
    Black includes African American, Africa, and of African descent

    Time to be more progressive than the default world……

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  • you MUST make it easier to buy tickets. MUST!

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    • freshied says:

      Must make it easier??? The only way that will happen is if they are allowed to increase population. How can you make it easier when supply stays the same and the demand is ever increasing.

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  • El Gato says:

    I really appreciate all the effort the BRC Census people put into this every year. And so I don’t mean to kill their buzz, but a self-selected survey is just not accurate. I don’t like to admit this, but this was my 18th burn and I have never filled out the census. Maybe I’ve become numb to it over the years. That’s why I think the stats on the high number of virgins is skewed way high. Those of us who have been out on the playa going on a couple of decades or more have maybe become too jaded after a while, or maybe too lazy, to take the time to fill out a census form every year.

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