The expected drop in attendance isn’t a sign for a lack of enthusiasm for Obama’s re-election, according to Lyman and others. With the historic novelty of the first inaugural gone, coupled with today’s challenging economy, polarized political climate, minimum stay requirements imposed by some Washington-area hotels, and images of people shivering in the bone-chilling cold during the 2009 swearing-in still fresh in the minds of many, more people are choosing to stay home and watch the event on television, they say.

“People are very excited about Obama being re-elected, but not excited about going to D.C. and enduring the cold like the last time,” Lyman said. “Some of it could be financial. Some people overspent over the holidays and I know some people’s job status changed in the last four years.”

David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said this year’s inaugural seems to lack the buzz and sense of anticipation that Obama’s first one had.