Luke 23:18-22 Recounts the response of the crowd to Pilates desire to release Jesus:
ἀνέκραγον δὲ πανπληθεὶ λέγοντες Αἶρε τοῦτον, ἀπόλυσον δὲ ἡμῖν τὸν Βαραββᾶν· ὅστις ἦν διὰ στάσιν τινὰ γενομένην ἐν τῇ πόλει καὶ φόνον βληθεὶς ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ. πάλιν δὲ ὁ Πειλᾶτος προσεφώνησεν αὐτοῖς, θέλων ἀπολῦσαι τὸν Ἰησοῦν. οἱ δὲ ἐπεφώνουν λέγοντες Σταύρου σταύρου αὐτόν. ὁ δὲ τρίτον εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς Τί γὰρ κακὸν ἐποίησεν οὗτος; οὐδὲν αἴτιον θανάτου εὗρον ἐν αὐτῷ· παιδεύσας οὖν αὐτὸν ἀπολύσω. οἱ δὲ ἐπέκειντο φωναῖς μεγάλαις αἰτούμενοι αὐτὸν σταυρωθῆναι, καὶ κατίσχυον αἱ φωναὶ αὐτῶν.
It is possible that a crowd can probably be manipulated towards any particular goal as long it is at least not against their own self interest. Mere observation of the media and public opinion today demonstrates that it is rare for a person to have an opinion other than what was first provided to them by their preferred news media outlet. What is occuring here? When faced with the choice between an influential religious figure and an insurrectionist, the people choose Barabbas.
We know that the Jewish leaders have been plotting in secret to arrest Jesus due to fear of the crowd and what the crowd might do if they attempt to arrest or put to death Jesus, so there must have been significant public support for Jesus. In light of this I am inclined to believe that, while the Jews loved Jesus, a character that stirred up Israel spiritually, they loved a character that represented rebellion and hope of removal of imperial Roman rule.
What do you think? Was the crowd manipulated? Strategically loaded with Jewish leaders in order to sway the crowd, perhaps even paid off? Alternatively, was the Jewish populace more interested in materal and physical deliverance over their rising spritual leader?