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.
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.
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.
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
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.