Secession Petitions

If you follow the site We the People, or any online news outlets, you’ve probably noticed the latest flurry of petitions from states across the Union. They all share a common theme:

Peacefully grant the State of [STATE] to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.

Apart from the fact that we already tried that, I also recognize that it’s the internet and a lot of crazy stuff gets posted there. Did you see this petition?

It has since been removed from the site for being “in violation” of the terms of use. Not surprising, but neither is the fact that such a petition was even submitted. Plus, I’ve written previously how skeptical I am regarding these sort of “slacktivist” services where you can feel good about “supporting” a cause for doing nothing other than clicking a link. But I’m certainly not going to condemn a whole group of people for doing something they feel is worthwhile, particularly on the internet.

But then I see stuff like this:

Facebook post in support of the secession petitions.

Aside from the facts that Texas trails the national averages in basic services like public education (29th out of 50), median household income (29th out of 50), and health care (47th out of 50), this sort of sentiment reminded me of a recent study in Nature Climate Change that sought to explain why everyone on both sides of the climate debate thought their opinion was the majority opinion.

So I thought: let’s crunch the numbers on these petitions and just see how they look.

I went through every petition I could find and found 54 of them (some states–Virginia and Georgia–had as many as 3 independent petitions). The numbers will be constantly changing, but as of about ~9:30am EST on November 14, the average petition had 12,341 votes for a total of 666,411.

Now, some base assumptions:

  • Each vote represents a single, voting-age American citizen. This is a terrible, terrible assumption. Technically speaking, the site enforces nothing beyond one vote per petition per email address. People of non-voting age, non-American citizens who put down a bogus US mailing address, and voting-age American citizens who vote on multiple petitions are most likely fuzzying a large number of votes. But for the sake of argument and simplicity, this assumption stands.
  • I’m using 2008 information on voter turnout. Outdated, yes, but if anything it should skew the numbers in favor of those signing the petitions. Again, for the sake of argument and simplicity, this assumption will stand.

With those assumptions, the math is simple: of 230 million voting-age Americans, 666,411 think secession is a good idea. What fraction of the voting-age populace does that represent?

0.28%. Not even half of 1% of the US voting population.

If the entire state of Vermont–every man, woman, and child–voted to secede, they still wouldn’t represent 0.28% of the American population. Nevermind that my two previous assumptions bloated this number up far beyond what its true value most likely is.

My conclusion, therefore, is this: slacktivism is a waste of time. If you actually want to make a difference, get out in the field and do something. Otherwise, please educate yourself before assuming everyone else agrees with you.


About Shannon Quinn

Oh hai!
This entry was posted in Articles, Internet, Mathematics, Politics, Real Life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Secession Petitions

  1. Rob H says:

    Legalize crystal weed

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