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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A majority, also known as a simple majority in the U.S., is a subset of a group that is more than half of the group. This should not be confused with a plurality, which is a subset having the largest number of parts. A plurality is not necessarily a majority, as the largest subset may be less than half of the entire group. In British English, majority and plurality are often used as synonyms; it can also refer to the margin of vote separating the first-place finisher from the second-place finisher, so that a candidate who wins by 1000 votes may be said to have received "a majority of 1000 votes". The term "overall majority" is used in British English to refer to the difference between the number of votes received by the winner and the combined votes cast for all other candidates.[1] The term "absolute majority" is used to indicate more than fifty percent of the vote.[2]

For example, in a hypothetical group of 40 athletes there are:

In this group, a majority would consist of more than half the total number of athletes, or 21 athletes. The group of all ball sport players together (15 football players + 6 table tennis players = 21) comprise a majority. However, football players, 15 in number, comprise a plurality, not a majority. In British English usage, football players would be described as having a majority of 5 (15 - 10) over sprinters, no individual sport has an absolute majority or an overall majority, and ball players have an overall majority of 2 (21 - 19) over the other sports.


Parliamentary rules

In parliamentary procedure (the "rules of order" concerning the conduct of business in a deliberative body), the term 'majority' refers to "more than half." As it relates to a vote, a majority is more than half of the votes cast (noting that an abstention is simply the refusal to vote).

A common error is to list a majority as being "one more than half" or "fifty percent plus one". This is incorrect when there is an odd number of votes cast. When there are 51 votes cast, half is 25.5. Only 26 votes are needed, not 26.5 votes.

The definition of "majority vote" can differ, however, from one parliamentary authority to another. Robert's Rules of Order, (abbreviated RONR) defines a majority as being more than one half of the votes cast including votes cast for an ineligible candidate, or improper choice (e.g. a vote of "maybe" on a yes or no vote); these votes referred to as "illegal votes cast by legal voters[3]." The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure (abbreviated TSC) defines a majority as being more than half of the "legal" votes cast [4].

For example, assume that votes are cast for three people for an office, Mr. A, Ms. B, and Wimpy the Gerbil (who is ineligible). The vote totals are:

  • Total votes cast - 20
  • Mr. A - 9 votes
  • Ms. B - 8 votes
  • Wimpy the Gerbil (ineligible) - 3 votes

Using the definition in RONR, no candidate has a majority and no candidate is elected; 20 votes cast, a majority (in whole numbers) is 11 and no candidate received 11. Using the definition in TSC, Mr. A is elected; 20 cast, 3 illegal, 17 legal, with a majority of legal votes cast (in whole numbers) being 9.

In politics, political voting systems, and even in parliamentary procedure in some cases, there are several different popular concepts relating to a majority:

These concepts are not to be confused with the concept of a majority as understood in parliamentary procedure, which is a common error. While they do have counterparts in parliamentary procedure, in it they are undefined as termed, and their discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

Comparison of 'simple majority' with other terms

A simple majority does not include abstentions or absent members. It is more strict than a plurality vote, but less strict than an absolute majority vote (which in countries other than the U.S. still simply means more than half, though the simpler American term "majority" is becoming increasingly popular). It is the most common requirement in voting for a measure to pass, especially in deliberative bodies and small organizations. In parliamentary procedure, the unqualified term "majority" has this meaning, and the usage "simple majority" is discouraged.



Consider three propositions: A, B, and C, that are proposed in a club of 100 members. In order for a proposition to be successful, a simple majority must agree to it. The results of the election are:

  • 30 votes for proposition A
  • 50 votes for proposition B
  • 10 votes for proposition C
  • 10 votes are blank

Since there are more votes for B than there are votes for both A and C combined, B has the simple majority, and so wins. That is, the votes for B make up more than 50% of the total counted votes (90). If all the votes were considered, including the 10 blank votes, as in an absolute majority vote, then B would not have a majority. Abstentions and non-voters do not affect a simple majority process, since they neither support nor oppose. They affect only an absolute majority.

In an election for president in the same club having candidates Jim, Bob, Sally, and Bridget, the results are as follows:

  • 20 votes for Jim
  • 20 votes for Bob
  • 40 votes for Sally
  • 2 votes for Bridget

In this election, no one has more votes than the combined votes of the opponents, so no one wins. Sally's 40 votes do not make up more than 50% of the total number of votes. In a case like this, most systems would either adopt a plurality rule or would have a second ballot with all of the candidates present, unless the organization's bylaws specify otherwise (as is commonly done to create a runoff election).

Tie votes do not meet simple majority because not more than half of the votes cast approve, so ties are classfied as failures.


  1. ^ "Overall Majority". Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Longmans. Retrieved 2009-04-26.  
  2. ^ "With three-cornered contests as common as they now are, we may have occasion to find a convenient single word for what we used to call an absolute majority... In America the word majority itself has that meaning while a poll greater than that of any other candidate, but less than half the votes cast is called a plurality. It might be useful to borrow this distinction..." (Fowler, H.W. 1965 A Dictionary of Modern English Usage)
  3. ^ Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th edition, 2000, pp. 387, 404
  4. ^ The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th edition, 2001, pp. 134, 158-9

See also

Template:Voting trio


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A majority, also known as a simple majority in the U.S., is a subset of a group that is more than half of the entire group. This should not be confused with a plurality, which is a subset having the largest number of parts.


  • In our governments the real power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of government contrary to the sense of the constituents, but from the acts in which government is the mere instrument of the majority.
    • James Madison, letter to Thomas Jefferson (October 24, 1787). The Papers of James Madison, vol. 10, pp. 213-14, Chicago and Charlottesville, Virginia (1962-1991)
  • In republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.
    • James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention (1829). The Mind of the Founder: Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison, p. 512, ed. Marvin Meyers, Indianapolis (1973)
  • Supreme power rests in the will of all or of the majority.
  • In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.
  • If you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours: Nature did it.
  • Shall we then judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely. ‘Tis pedantry to estimate nations by the census, or by square miles of land, or other than by their importance to the mind of the time.
  • A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks, and limitations, and always changing easily, with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.
    • Abraham Lincoln, First inaugural address (March 4, 1861). Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 4, p. 268, Rutgers University Press (1953, 1990)
  • The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population—the intelligent ones or the fools? I think we can agree it’s the fools, no matter where you go in this world, it’s the fools that form the overwhelming majority.
  • I’m plotting revolution against this lie that the majority has a monopoly of the truth. What are these truths that always bring the majority rallying round? Truths so elderly they are practically senile. And when a truth is as old as that, gentlemen, you can hardly tell it from a lie.
  • The worst enemy of truth and freedom in our society is the compact majority. Yes, the damned, compact, liberal majority.
  • When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong.
    • Eugene V. Debs, Speech in Cleveland, Ohio.(Sept. 11, 1918) Eugene V. Debs Speaks, ed. Jean Y. Tussey (1970)
  • One with the law is a majority.
    • Calvin Coolidge, speech accepting nomination as Republican candidate for vice president, Northampton, Massachusetts (July 27, 1920), as reported by The New York Times, July 28, 1920, p. 6.
  • The principle of majority rule is the mildest form in which the force of numbers can be exercised. It is a pacific substitute for civil war in which the opposing armies are counted and the victory is awarded to the larger before any blood is shed. Except in the sacred tests of democracy and in the incantations of the orators, we hardly take the trouble to pretend that the rule of the majority is not at bottom a rule of force.
    • Walter Lippmann, “Why Should the Majority Rule?” Harper’s Magazine (New York, 1926)
  • Human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individual and which remains united against all separate individuals. The power of this community is then set up as “right” in opposition to the power of the individual, which is condemned as “brute force.”
  • The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.
  • There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.
  • Majority rule is a precious, sacred thing worth dying for. But—like other precious, sacred things, such as the home and the family—it’s not only worth dying for; it can make you wish you were dead. Imagine if all of life were determined by majority rule. Every meal would be a pizza. Every pair of pants, even those in a Brooks Brothers suit, would be stonewashed denim. Celebrity diet and exercise books would be the only thing on the shelves at the library. And—since women are a majority of the population—we’d all be married to Mel Gibson.
    • P.J. O'Rourke, “The Mystery of Government,” Parliament of Whores (1991)

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MAJORITY (Fr. majorite; Med. Lat. majoritas; Lat. major, greater), a term signifying the greater number. In legislative and deliberative assemblies it is usual to decide questions by a majority of those present at a meeting and voting. In law, majority is the state of being of full age, which in the United Kingdom is twenty-one years of age. A person attains his majority at twelve o'clock at night of the day preceding his twenty-first birthday (see Infant; AGE).

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Simple English

Majority means the greater number of something. The opposite is minority.

If more than half the people are right-handed we can say that the majority of people are right-handed. A minority of people are left-handed. In fact, nearly everyone is right-handed, so we can say that the "vast majority" are right-handed, and only a "small minority" are left-handed.

If a political party gets a majority of votes, it means that they get more than any of the other parties. Example: if there are three parties, the winning party may have a majority of 40% while the other two each have 30%. An "absolute majority" means more votes than all the other parties together, i.e. more than half the total votes.


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