# 18% of American's Can Determine 52 Senators?

Quote of the Day

The fastest way to teach someone nothing is to try telling them everything.

— Susanna L. Harris on Twitter, quoting her plumber explaining why her pipes were making noise. His quote is true for all science communication.

## Introduction

Figure 1: 26 States with the Least Population (mapchart.net).

I was listening to a podcast this week where I heard James Carville state that "18% of American's can determine 52 senators." I thought this was an interesting quote that I could have the students I tutor verify using Excel and Power Query. All of the data is available online and the problem has a relatively short solution.

For those who like to follow along, my Excel workbook is here.

## Background

The only background information that you need to verify this statement is that every state has two senators. To ensure that I have complete population data, I used 2019 census data.

## Analysis

### Approach

I will verify Carville's statement using the following process:

• Download a list of US states with their populations into Power Query.
• Insert the total population of the US  for computing population percentages (this number includes the District of Columbia and territories that do not have senators).
• Convert the populations into percentages of the whole.
• Sort the list in ascending order of population percentage
• Look at the population percentage for the least populated 26 states = 52 senators

### Results

Figure 2 shows my spreadsheet results, which show that the 26 least populous states having 17.6% of the US population could determine control of the US Senate if they all voted the same way.

Figure 2: List of US States Sorted By Population.

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### 3 Responses to 18% of American's Can Determine 52 Senators?

1. NotACapitalist says:

"18% of American's can determine 52 senators."

Ignores percent of Americans qualified to vote, percent registered to vote, as well as the percent who actually vote.

Keep in mind, while CA has the greatest number of Americans, it has 2 senators, 1/50th of the US Senate; WY, with <600K Americans has 2 senators, 1/50th of the US Senate.

This observation may exclude Senators from American possessions. Oh my!

I did not use Power Query or Excel to make this observation. Hell, I use a Mac. Bwa hahahaha.

2. richard lionheart says:

In the UK there are 30 million voters, and it can be said provable, that the government changes hands on as a little as 500,000 voters changing their minds, if they are in the key marginal seats. There's roughly 120 seats out of 628 that only really matter in determining who runs the country.

• mathscinotes says:

Interesting comment. I would like to know how many other countries have these issues. In the US, our politicians are very big on picking their voters rather than having voters pick them.