Absolute majority vs narrow majority

TOTO KAKA

Senior Member
Persian
Hello everyone

Would you please tell me the difference between "Absolute majority" and "Narrow majority"? Are they used to refer to a similar situation in elections?

Best wishes
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    An absolute majority simply means
    absolute majority
    n
    a number of votes totalling over 50 per cent, such as the total number of votes or seats obtained by a party that beats the combined opposition
    A number of votes at 50.2% versus 49.8% wouyld be an absolute majority but a narrow one. A 70% versus 30% would not be a narrow majority.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Absolute majority" is rarely used. When it is used, it has a very different meaning from "narrow majority".

    In a first past the post election, if the winning candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, they have won an absolute majority. However, if there were more than two candidates, the winning candidate may get elected with far less than 50% of the vote.

    Consider a situation where there are four candidates. In scenario A, Alice, Bob and Charlie each get 24% of the vote, and Daisy gets 28% of the vote. Daisy wins by a narrow majority of 4%, but she does not have an absolute majority.

    In scenario B, Bob gets 52% of the vote, and Alice, Charlie and Daisy each get 16% of the vote. Bob has an absolute majority, but since he has won by 36% over his nearest rival, it isn't a narrow majority at all.

    In scenario C, Alice gets 51% of the vote, so she has an absolute majority. Charlie gets 47% of the vote, so you could say that Alice won by a narrow majority as well. Bob and Daisy each got 1% of the vote.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Consider a situation where there are four candidates. In scenario A, Alice, Bob and Charlie each get 24% of the vote, and Daisy gets 28% of the vote. Daisy wins by a narrow majority of 4%, but she does not have an absolute majority.
    In American news coverage, we call this a plurality and reserve majority for 50% plus one vote.

    WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2019
    ma•jor•i•ty (mə jôri tē, -jor-), n., pl. -ties.
    1. the greater part or number;
      the number larger than half the total (opposed to minority):the majority of the population.
    2. Government a number of voters or votes, jurors, or others in agreement, constituting more than half of the total number.
    3. the amount by which the greater number, as of votes, surpasses the remainder (distinguished from plurality).
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Consider a situation where there are four candidates. In scenario A, Alice, Bob and Charlie each get 24% of the vote, and Daisy gets 28% of the vote. Daisy wins by a narrow majority of 4%, but she does not have an absolute majority.
    Is that really called a majority in BE? She certainly won by a fairly narrow margin.

    Even Collins has under "majority":
    (in an election) the number of votes or seats by which the strongest party or candidate beats the combined opposition or the runner-up.
    I read that to mean "in the case of more than two candidates is when the "combined" meaning applies, and when there are only two, then the "runner-up" meaning applies. It's been a long time since I have voted in the UK, so it's an honest quibble:) I need to keep my AE/BE bilingual status up to date!
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Also consider this scenario. Two parties are running that would normally form a coalition that makes up more than 50%. If one party wins an absolute majority that means they win more than 50% themselves and don't necessarily have to form a coalition.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Even Collins has under "majority":
    (in an election) the number of votes or seats by which the strongest party or candidate beats the combined opposition or the runner-up.
    The OED adds
    or which has the largest share of votes;
    And
    absolute majority n. [compare French majorité absolue (1789)] a majority comprising more than half of all votes cast or (rarely) more than half of the total number of registered voters; a government majority comprising more than half of all the seats in a legislature.
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Thank you - a (nother) distinct difference between AE and BE (From Lexico Powered by Oxford)

    British The number by which the votes cast for one party or candidate exceed those for the next.
    ‘Labour retained the seat with a majority of 9,830’

    US The number by which votes for one candidate are more than those for all other candidates together.
    ‘Without this shift, Kerry would have had a popular majority of a million votes.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Is that really called a majority in BE? She certainly won by a fairly narrow margin.
    Certainly it is.

    You may be confusing two different meanings of "majority" in BrE:
    1. In a First Past the Post (FPTP) election of a single candidate, as is the case in British parliamentary elections, there may be any number of candidates, each elector has one vote, and the candidate with the highest number of votes wins. Since every British parliamentary seat (except, possibly, that of the speaker) is contested by at least three parties (often many more), it is common for the winning candidate to secure less than 50% of the vote. The difference number in votes or percentage of votes cast between them and the next highest candidate is termed their majority.
      Every MP must have a majority - there is no other way of getting elected (although I don't know what happens if there is a dead heat). However, they do not need an absolute majority.
    2. In a legislative assembly, such as the British House of Commons, if one party secures more seats than all opposition parties combined, then they have a majority, which is measured as the difference between their number of seats and the combined opposition parties' number of seats.
    My earlier post concerned use (1).

    As you may know, the current British government does not have a majority, and needs to rely on the votes of other parties to remain in power. Also, in Britain the issue is clouded by the speaker and deputy speakers not usually voting, and the seven Sinn Fein MPs not taking up their seats in Parliament because they refuse to swear the oath of allegiance. Therefore, although you would think to have a majority would require winning 326 seats (there are 650 seats in total), in practice a majority may be had with 320 seats. The Conservative party has 316 seats.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    You may be confusing two different meanings of "majority" in BrE:
    Yes I actually was confusing the two definitions in the BE dictionaries :) It is now cleared up and will require context, as usual, to determine which applies in any given use.
    The majority of people or things in a group is more than half of them.
    (Collins)
    in an election, the difference in the number of votes between the winningperson or group and the one that comes second:
    Cambridge
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Is it "an absolute majority" or "the absolute majority"?

    The absolute majority of people (in general) like him.
    An absolute majority of people (in general) like him.
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Is it "an absolute majority" or "the absolute majority"?

    The absolute majority of people (in general) like him.
    An absolute majority of people (in general) like him.
    What is the context? Why do you not use "majority" on its own? What difference to you want "absolute" to make?

    "Absolute" is only used with "majority" when it comes to votes or elected representatives, that I am aware.
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Of course, majority on its own shows that there are more people in one group than in others. But to me "absolute majority" shows the degree of the gap between all the groups involved. It doesn't say explicitly how many more people there are there but it gives a good feeling that the gap is solid. At least, that's how I feel about it.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Of course, majority on its own shows that there are more people in one group than in others. But to me "absolute majority" shows the degree of the gap between all the groups involved. It doesn't say explicitly how many more people there are there but it gives a good feeling that the gap is solid. At least, that's how I feel about it.
    As post #2 says, an absolute majority does not indicate how large the majority is.

    Perhaps the word you are looking for is "overwhelming".
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    As post #2 says, an absolute majority does not indicate how large the majority is.

    Perhaps the word you are looking for is "overwhelming".
    Well, it indicates something as you said |In a first past the post election, if the winning candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, they have won an absolute majority.|

    That's what I meant - a solid gap. But OK. Let it be overwhelming.

    Which one is correct then?

    The/an overwhelming majority of people (in general) like him.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Well, it indicates something as you said |In a first past the post election, if the winning candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, they have won an absolute majority.|

    That's what I meant - a solid gap.
    But it isn't a solid gap. 50.2% against 49.8% is an absolute majority, but it might just be a difference of one person.

    You can use either article with "majority", but it makes more sense to use "the" with "overwhelming" since you are adding emphasis.
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    But it isn't a solid gap. 50.2% against 49.8% is an absolute majority, but it might just be a difference of one person.

    You can use either article with "majority", but it makes more sense to use "the" with "overwhelming" since you are adding emphasis.
    In that case, what does this word stand for if it doesn't add anything meaningful?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Absolute.
    Have you read the rest of the thread? Posts #2 and #3 describe the usage, and in BrE, which uses "majority" in elections in a different way from American usage, there is a difference between "majority" and "absolute majority". As I said in post #14, "absolute majority" is not used anywhere other than votes and representation, that I am aware.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    what does this word stand for?
    To summarise the above in British terms:

    Absolute becomes important only when there are more than two parties at an election:
    If there are 4 political parties, and these are the votes they receive
    A - 1,000
    B - 2,000
    C - 4,000
    D - 9,000
    the total votes = 16,000

    D has an absolute majority because, even if the others join together, the others have fewer votes than D. An absolute majority therefore means "the receipt of more than half of the total number votes cast in the election."

    At the next election the results are
    A - 1,000
    B - 2,000
    C - 6,000
    D - 7,000
    the total votes = 16,000,
    D does not have an absolute majority of the votes, he has a simple majority of the votes over C of 1,000 votes.

    At the next election, parties A, B and C have joined together and formed party E. The results are
    E - 7,000
    D - 9,000
    D is said to have a [simple] majority of 2,000. Absolute is not used because the election concerned only two parties.

    At this election other results are

    E1 - 5,991
    D1 - 6,000 -> D1 has a narrow majority, which can be described as "a majority of 9."

    E2 - 100
    D2 - 12,509 -> D2 has an overwhelming majority, which can be described as "a majority of 12,409."
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There are lots of elections in the U.S. run by lots of different groups (including private ones)/states/cities/etc. using various and different rules. Some places have run-off systems that require an absolute majority to elect someone. In principal, that's 50% of the number of voters + 1 vote (sometimes rounding is needed but the winner should always have a final total above 50% and at least one greater than all the other votes combined).

    1200 voters - the winner needs 601 votes
    1201 voters - the winner needs 601 votes
    1202 voters - the winner needs 602 votes

    The election results -
    Person A: 400 votes
    Person B: 599 votes
    Person C: 201 votes

    No candidate has an absolute majority. Even if B had 600 votes B would not have an absolute majority. That number is 601. (We call B's total a "plurality". It's the highest single total, but not above 50%.)

    The top two candidates compete in the next (and final) round. This time, there are 1400 voters.

    Person A: 710 votes
    Person B: 690 votes

    Person A has an absolute majority, greater than or equal to 701 and wins the election.

    You could say A won by a narrow majority. A earned 50.71% of the vote. But it's still an absolute majority (>= 701), and that's the requirement to be declared the winner. 1200 to 200 would also be an absolute majority, but not a narrow majority.

    If B had gotten 601 votes in the first round, B would have had an absolute majority, been declared the winner, and no second round would have been held.
     
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