Talk:Plurality (voting)

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Should this be a Wiktionary entry?Edit

Should this be a Wiktionary entry?

no, it's a concept that could be explained with examples. this article is a stub though. 17:31, 21 November 2004 (UTC)
I completely agree that this should be a wiktionary entry. "Plurality" is a word. Things like "Plurality voting system" should have wikipedia entries but to have all this explanation and talking about Borda voting systems in an article titled "plurality" doesn't make sense. 14:26, 27 April 2006 (UTC)
Plurality should be a disambig page; it has lots of other meanings. Fixed. David-Sarah Hopwood (talk) 05:20, 14 August 2008 (UTC)

Too FPTP-specific?Edit

OK, I've de-stubbed. I'm slightly concerned that what I've written may be FPTP-specific rather than plurality-specific; I'd appreciate feedback on this article. TSP 11:51, 14 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Don't duplicate plurality voting systemEdit

Let's be careful not to be too duplicitous of content that belongs in plurality voting system. Scott Ritchie 18:23, 16 December 2005 (UTC)

Merge plurality voting system into pluralityEdit

I have suggested that Plurality voting system be merged into Plurality. Plurality voting system has better content, but Plurality is a better name for the article. In addition to explaining plurality elections, Plurality will allow us to explain the concept as it occurs outside the context of voting. Squideshi 14:03, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

I disagree. The 'Plurality' or 'First Past The Post' voting system is a voting system employing pluralities. It is not the only possible one (Borda count and approval voting are others). The main problem is that this article, most of which I wrote one afternoon very early in my Wikipedia career, is too specific to the Plurality voting system, not to pluraities in general. It should be a general article which can be referenced by all other articles mentioning pluralities; not specific to that one voting system. TSP 14:55, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
I think that we actually agree but are just misunderstanding one another. I am suggesting that this article cover pluralities in general, only one of which is a plurality voting system. I suggested the merge because Plurality voting system implies there is only one type of plurality. Plurality should be the main article. Squideshi 01:39, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
But 'Plurality voting system' currently describes one particular voting system which happens to employ pluralities; the one known in the UK as 'First Past The Post'. I don't think that the article describing that voting system should be at 'Plurality'; it should be at 'Plurality voting system' or at 'First Past The Post voting system'. The article there is not about pluralities; it is about a particular voting system that uses them; so should not be at 'Plurality'. If the current title is confusing, it could be moved back to 'First Past The Post voting system', which I find less ambiguous. The article currently at 'Plurality' is the nearest thing we have to an article about Pluralities, so should stay here; but it should be rewritten to be more general. I think there are two distinct articles here, and neither should be merged into the other. TSP 01:55, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
No merge Instead, I vote that the plurality article remove all reference to first past the post (except a link to this article), and be left as a general article. Is it too late to suggest that Plurality voting system be renamed back to its original name; the rename happened without consensus and in violation of Wikipedia's guidlines for national varieties of English? Notinasnaid 12:56, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
As I understand the matter, it is never too late to reconsider a move, especially if the move was done on the assumption that it was non-controversial. Is the term "Plurality voting" not used in the UK at all? The only time I have seen, "First Past the Post" used in the U.S. was for a completely different voting system (majority required with published totals and vote-changing). I would prefer a title that will be understood by all educated speakers of English rather than slavishly following a rule on national varieties of English. Robert A.West (Talk) 18:26, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
I've never heard 'plurality voting' used - though Google shows a few hits from the UK, just as there are a few hits from the US for 'first past the post'. 'First past the post' also seems to me to be prevalent in Canadian, Australian and New Zealand English, as well as in articles from places such as India; though it's hard to establish this for sure. TSP 19:10, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
I've never heard "plurality" used in the UK. It is used by all parties, both those for and against it. The discussion page suggested it was a pejorative term; well, maybe in the US. However, I can only offer a lay opinion; my library is rather thin on political books and none of them mention this. Notinasnaid 09:01, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
Supplement: original discussion of move, Talk:Plurality_voting_system/archive1#FPTP not NPOV. Notinasnaid 09:16, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose the merger. First past the post is the term I am familiar with in Australia (Commonwealth English). Notwithstanding the discussions about the original discussion of the move, if you look at the "what links here" page the very great majority of pages link via redirects from First Past the Post or other similar redirect pages indicating that it is the common term used by editors of articles where the term is used. I support a move back for the Plurality voting system to First past the post and that this Plurality article develops separately as it is not concerned solely with FPTP.--A Y Arktos\talk 23:22, 5 April 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose the merger: the voting system and the general concept are differe and should cover different content from different points of view. CRGreathouse 00:45, 20 July 2006 (UTC)


I had a little alarm go off in my head while reading this article when I realized I "agreed" with it. I found the information and perspective to be generally accurate, but then I realized that I myself (having more or less minority political opinions) have quite skewed viewpoints regarding the issue.

The section near the end of the article suggests the problem with "tactical" (or as it's always been known to me, "strategic") voting - namely, that it doesn't alwyas reflect one's true voting intentions. This indeed is often the case; or so it seems to me. Regardless, it suggests that it IS often the case, and indeed this entire page seems to be written from a perspective similar to my own. Because I, of course, believe quite strongly, and because I want my own beliefs, based on logic or otherwise, should be prevented fairly, I think this page needs to be looked at so far as neutrality and justification are concerned. --Jammoe 04:02, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

Example to show Plurality is confusingEdit

I believe the example used to show plurality, while being very good about giving a worldview, is confusing to Americans (people from the U.S.) because we commonly call ourselves "Americans" as a nationality. It needs to be broken down or written better, so it does not equate "Americans" as "people from the North or South American continents." I would recommend giving some other continent as an example for a continental plurality to avoid this problem. Guroadrunner 19:47, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
Quoted from the article by the editor signed just above

For instance, in a room with 12 people: 3 Germans; 2 Englishmen; 2 Canadians; 2 Mexicans, 2 Guatemalans; and 1 U.S. national. Considered by national origin, the 3 Germans are the plurality; considered by continent the 7 Americans (Canadians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, and U.S. nationals) are a plurality; considered by primary national language, the 5 anglophones (Englishmen, Canadians, and U.S. nationals) are a plurality; and considered by both continent and language, the 4 Hispanic Americans (Mexicans and Guatemalans) are a plurality. However, only the 7 Americans, when considered by continent, constitute a majority. In the context of voting, this ambiguity can lead to coalitions of greater or lesser stability.

end quotation

I agree, this is confusing, that's why I edited it to say "North American" instead of "American".
Re: To the guy from Guatamala:
This is the English Language Wikipedia, not the Spanish language Wikipedia. What the Spanish language has to say about English terminology is.... well... irrelevant. I might as well start going on the Spanish language and start debating the usage of Spanish language terms that are common in English and try to change the consensus' mind.
Although your concept is highly laughable kind of interesting, (And also based on the argument of amphiboly) most English speakers and also, most speakers of other foreign languages (Since you're going to start referring to foreign languages as a reference) refer to people from the USA as "Americans". Russian refers to US nationals as "Amerikskis" and French refers to us as "Les Americans".
Also, if we're going to start splitting hairs, you'll have to call New Guineans ""Australians" since New Guinea is a part of the Australian continent. You may be on the North American continent, you're not an American. You can become one though if you immigrate here legally and pass the citizenship test. Sorry if that news killed your political agenda.ColdRedRain 21:27, 10 June 2007 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I find your paragraph actually more confusing. The original paragraph is, in my opinion, clear enough. And I'll tell you one more thing, mister: US nationals are Americans, Mexicans are Americans, Guatemalans are Americans, and anyone born and/or living in America is an American. Too bad for you if you guys don't have a name for the inhabitants of your country; in Spanish we have a perfectly good name: estadounidenses. USians? Unitedstatesians? USAmericans? Statesmen? I don't know, but please don't dilute the word "American". English speakers have been using that word in a way that's too excluding for my taste, or the taste of the millions of other Americans for that matter. --SaulPerdomo 06:52, 27 January 2007 (UTC)
Actually in my less serious moments I've taken to calling US citizens "Usaians" for lack of an actual term. They are Americans, but Americans that belong to a state that is united with others. So properly they don't have a collective term, they should be called Californians, Texans or Virginians. Whatever state they come from. ;) --Monotonehell 07:16, 27 January 2007 (UTC)

Confusing treatment of "simple majority" in American usageEdit

The current text, in context, seems to suggest that "simple majority" is used to mean "plurality" in American usage, but with absences and abstentions not considered. I don't think that's the intent of the passage -- I think it wants to say that a simple majority in American usages is more than half of all votes actually cast (as opposed to an absolute majority, which I take it would be "more than half of those having the right to vote"). The text should be clarified -- maybe someone who's more sure of the distinction between "simple" and "absolute" in American usage should do this. (I wouldn't have made that distinction myself -- I would just have said that a simple majority is more than half of votes cast, as opposed to a supermajority, which might be 60% or 2/3 or 3/4 or something.) --Trovatore 00:01, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Different meanings (CUT FROM THE ARTICLE)Edit

I moved the following from the article (feel free to move it back.) This section is not about the "meaning" of plurality. The "meaning" that is used is the same for all three bullet examples - plurality is the group with the largest number but still below a majority count. If anything, this example is a demonstration showing that there are different pluralities depending on what one is measuring. ~ Parlirules (talk) 13:51, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Cut from the article by the editor signed just above

Different meaningsEdit

The meaning of "plurality" depends on how the elements are categorized. For instance, in a room with 12 people: three Germans; two English people; two English-speaking Canadians; one Mexican, two Guatemalans; and two Americans:

  • considered by national origin, the three Germans are the plurality;
  • considered by continent the seven North Americans (Canadians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, and Americans) are a plurality;
  • considered by primary national language, the six Anglophones (Englishmen, Canadians, and Americans) are a plurality; and
  • considered by both continent and language, the four English speaking North Americans (Canadians and Americans) are a plurality.

However, only the seven North Americans, when considered by continent, constitute a majority (more than six). In the context of voting, this ambiguity can lead to coalitions of greater or lesser stability.
end import


This section (#U.S. usage) has no citations and is probably not supportable with accurate citations. In United States usage and quite possibly throughout the English speaking world, to borrow from Gertrude Stein, a majority is a majority is a majority is a majority. It simply means "more than half". The question then needs to be asked, "more than half" of what? In voting for a candidate or proposition the default meaning for majority is more than half of the votes cast. (One could cite a reference here from the voting section of any major book on parliamentary procedure.)

However, sometimes a different voting percentage is needed/required/ordered. This could be two-thirds, four-fifths, etc. It has become more commonplace to call any percentage requirement over majority, a "super-majority." Not really a useful term in my view, but one can't argue against the coining of new words once they become popular. ["Super Tuesday", "Super-Size"] Another aspect of determining majority is of what basis. The term "absolute majority" has been coined to mean a majority of all those that could vote (in an organized society or legislature this is the total count of members.) This is a higher requirement than majority. (One could also call "absolute majority" a type of "super-majority", but most people don't think of it in this way, so let's not confuse the issue by pointing out the impreciseness of evolving language.)

Once use of the term "absolute majority" began to be established, which was done to distinguished it from "majority", language did its thing again, and people were no longer content to understand "majority" as "majority", so human nature being what it is, many started to use the term "simple majority" as a replacement for "majority" because they felt it was important that both concepts have the same number of adjectives. Humans have an innate need for symmetry.

Where was I? I was making a point here, I think. Yes, regarding the sentence below. Majority and simple majority are pretty much the same thing, certainly in American (or US usage), the difference is that there are more citations defining "majority" than there are defining "simple majority." ... also, the use of "strict" is perhaps the wrong term, a "higher requirement" in terms of votes might be more appropriate.

I have not put all this on the web page because (a) I don't have time at the moment to find the citations (and some of this is clearly opinion) and (b) this article is about plurality, not majority (or various forms of majority.) So I moved it here for the time being. ~ Parlirules (talk) 14:33, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Cut from the article by the editor signed just above

U.S. usageEdit

In United States usage, 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.[citation needed]
end import

Smallest possible plurality - incorrect formula?Edit

"The smallest possible plurality is (v+n)/n, rounded up, where v is the number of members of the group (voters) and n is the number of categories (candidates)."

This can't be right: if v=100 and n=3, the smallest possible plurality ought to be 34 (34+33+33=100). But (100+3)/3 = 34.3, which rounds up to 35. What should it read - "rounded to the nearest whole number" perhaps? --Blisco (talk) 15:10, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Doesn't 34.3, by convention, round off to 34? Here is a simple statement of the convention:
"To round off decimals:
  1. Find the place value you want (the "rounding digit") and look at the digit just to the right of it.
  2. If that digit is less than 5, do not change the rounding digit but drop all digits to the right of it.
  3. If that digit is greater than or equal to five, add one to the rounding digit and drop all digits to the right of it."[1]
The formula seems right to me. Sunray (talk) 18:05, 15 October 2008 (UTC)
"The smallest possible plurality is (v+n)/n, rounded up..." 34.3 becomes 35. In voting in a one-person:one vote ratio, there is no such thing as a decimal portion in determining vote requirements because there is no such thing as a part-vote - it is not conventional rounding. Rounding up gives you a practical vote count.--WPaulB (talk) 14:22, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Article contradicts its own definitionEdit

The last sentence of the first para states, "A plurality of votes is ... less than a majority of the vote." This contradicts the first sentence which states "a plurality vote is the largest number of votes ..." with no indication it must be less than a majority. It also contradicts the majority article which states "A plurality is not necessarily a majority" (my emphasis). Nurg (talk) 03:52, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

That's my confusion with this article exactly. It seems to be a contradiction.
- Misha (talk) 21:23, 12 August 2008 (UTC)
The confusion may stem from the fact that there are two meanings of the word majority depending on whether you are using North American or British English. Robert's Rules sets out the definition as it has become to be accepted in North American English:
"In an election a candidate has a plurality when he has a larger vote than any other candidate; he has a majority when he has more than half the votes cast..." [2]
In British English, plurality and majority are sometimes used as synonyms. Here's the Oxford definition of majority in British English:
"2 Brit. the number by which the votes cast for one party or candidate exceed those for the next."
As Fowler notes, the term absolute majority has traditionally been used in the UK to indicate 50 + 1. Fowler identifies a problem with this usage:
"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).
To avoid conducting original research, I think we have to make note of the above. I would suggest that the lead be revised to point out that the definition given (based on Robert's Rules of Order) is North American usage. A footnote could then quote Fowler on the distinction. Then with some tidying up of the language, we might be able to achieve greater clarity. Comments? Sunray (talk) 19:11, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

I've tidied up, and have a requestEdit

Ok, I've tidied the article up a little, based on reading the whole Talk page. I don't think that what I've done steps on anyone's toes, and I hope it gives the article a little more clarity. I now have a request - can anyone clearly and concisely sum up what the main thrust of this article is supposed to be, and how it's supposed to be distinct from the plurality voting system article. I realise there's been conversations about this before, but the article probably needs a really clear vision if we're going to improve it beyond what it is now. Petemyers (talk) 20:34, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

Smallest possible plurality (CUT FROM THE ARTICLE)Edit

At the moment, this constitutes original research, and so I've moved it here:
—20:50, 15 October 2008‎ Petemyers [retrieved from Revision history by Agent Orange]
Cut from the article by the editor signed just above

Smallest possible pluralityEdit

The smallest possible plurality is (v+n-1)/n, rounded up, where v is the number of members of the group (voters) and n is the number of categories (candidates). Thus in a five-candidate plurality election, just over 20 percent of the vote can theoretically win. If n is 2 then the plurality becomes a majority.
end import

North American vs. British usage for "plurality"Edit

Uh, there's some unnecessary stuff in this article, particularly about the Canadian way of expressing plurality". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Yes. Canadians don't refer to it as a plurality when talking about voting results. Majority government means a party won more than 50% of the seats in the House of Commons. Minority government means that one party had 50% or less seats in the House of Commons, but more than any other individual party.--WPaulB (talk) 14:29, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Have you seen the discussion above about British and North American usage of the terms? The example is there because:
  1. It illustrates the concept that many have found confusing.
  2. It also illustrates the difference in usage in different parts of the English speaking world.
I will change Canadian to American, and Welsh to English, so that becomes a little clearer. Petemyers (talk) 16:00, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
No I won't because the article has changed a lot since I was here a few days ago! I'm inviting the user who undid my edits to discuss that here. Petemyers (talk) 16:05, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
As Petemyers says, there is a different meaning of "plurality" in British and American English. His example was intended to illustrate that. I found the previous reference to a "plurality voting system" confusing. Such language is rarely used. More commonly used terms are "'first-past-the-post"' or "'winner take all'" voting. And I agree with WPaulB that Canadians do not usually refer to a plurality but rather a "minority government," as would Brits. Nevertheless the current minority government in Canada is an example of a plurality (in both American and Canadian English). The "Canadian" and "Welshman" example was interesting, but perhaps a bit too cute. As a Canadian I prefer to distinguish between American and Canadian English. However, with this word, as with a great many others, they happen to coincide. As the citation is from Robert who was American, perhaps we should change the example. Sunray (talk) 18:05, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
The problem with the definition in the lead as given at the moment is, that it doesn't account for the distinction between a plurality and a majority when there are 3 candidates, but one of them takes 51% of the vote. My original re-write of the lead was to correct that, among other things. As the article stands at the moment it repeats itself in a number of areas. Petemyers (talk) 17:25, 20 October 2008 (UTC)
Why not fix it? As long as we stay away from the notion that a plurality is a "plurality voting system," it should be fine. Sunray (talk) 17:55, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

I have to say, from a British perspective, that I've never come across this use of the word "plurality" over here. It just means more than 1. Peter jackson (talk) 15:18, 31 July 2009 (UTC)


When I read this, I was struck by the redundancy of the second paragraph. The first part of the first sentence in the paragraph is exactly the same as a sentence a few lines before in the first paragraph, and most of the rest is about the same. There is, however, some new information about English usage at the end. Perhaps that part should be merged with one of the other paragraphs and the rest of the paragraph should be deleted? The Grand Rans (talk) 15:11, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

British UsageEdit

As a British English speaker I don't recognise 'majority' meaning 'plurality'. 'majority' is usually described as '50% plus one'. Referencing a 45 year old 'A Dictionary of Modern English Usage' doesn't really do it for me. (talk) 19:11, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

I agree with this also. In the UK, in nearly any context we use majority to refer to more than half, whilst minority refers to less than half. For example, the current Scottish Government is referred to as a minority administration, as the governing party holds 47/ 129 seats.
When referring to individual constituency returns, a Briton would not say, "Alice won with the majority of votes" but rather, "Alice has a majority of nine". In this sense, the majority is referred to as the difference (in votes cast) between the first and second placed candidates. In the UK, the example cited in the article would suggest that Alice won a majority share of the vote.
User:Waterwynd (talk) 20:06, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
While wikifying section "In British English" I have heavily re-worded to make it more clear and precise (both, i hope, but in some details those goals compete).
There may be no problem with Fowler (1965). The content of the so-called Reference shows that it should be a Note (or should be rewritten), for its point is that Fowler argues in favor of a development for which Users ** and Waterwynd seem to provide testimony.
Some readers may stumble on one small(?) point about this section: under "British" heading it introduces "UK" constituency and "(North) American" usage in the first paragraph. In the next paragraph it purports to illustrate some distinction, between English language of British Isles and North American in terms of a "Briton" and a "Canadian". --P64 (talk) 00:01, 18 May 2012 (UTC)
I agree that the British English section has off-topic content. The structure generally needs to be revised. Currently the North American usage is discussed in the lead, but the British usage is only discussed in a section. Either both should be treated in the lead, or both should have their section and the lead should be limited to an explanation of ambiguity. --Chealer (talk) 19:29, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

Voting and electionsEdit

... A few days later it occurs to me that the biggest problem here is the focus entirely on elections (of legislators, primarily).

This article, and siblings such as majority (voting), should begin with the basic instance of voting, which is the resolution of binary questions such as whether to approve some proposition. Voters may have more than two options such as {Aye, Nay, abstain} and some eligible voters may be absent.

  • "We all continued the discussion at The Local Brewpub because a plurality [/majority/relative majority/simple majority/absolute majority] voted to do so."

May one say that in British, Welsh, North American, Canadian, and U.S. usage (now or formerly mentioned in the article regard to elections)? What does it mean? --P64 (talk) 16:49, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

Quantification should be relegatedEdit

(quote) where 100 votes are cast for three candidates, with Alice polling 40 votes, Bob 31, and Carol 29. A Briton might say "Alice won with a majority of 9" while a Canadian might say "Alice won with a plurality."

This USAmerican would say Alice won with a plurality of 40 votes or 40%. In some contexts I would say "40% of votes cast" and the like. I would not call 9 votes, or 9%, etc, the plurality or the majority or any adjective majority; only the "margin", the "difference", etc.

This is a tertiary issue, however. Quantification such as "majority of 9 votes" and "51% majority" should be covered separately from the voting outcomes that constitute plurality, majority, etc.

First: voting in binary decision making (see "Voting and elections" just above).

Second: regarding elections, when do the Briton and Canadian (and perhaps others) agree and when disagree that "Alice polled a majority"? or garnered a plurality?

Third: when Alice polls a majority in the British sense, how do the Britons quantify it? And so on for the Canadian, the plurality, etc. --P64 (talk) 17:08, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

Why is a citation needed here?Edit

"When there are only two choices, the plurality choice is also the majority choice." [citation needed]

Why is a citation needed for the above statement? It's simple logic that if there are only two options and one is chosen, that one must have received both the plurality and majority of votes. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:57, 1 June 2012 (UTC)

The article "should" cover abstentions and absences. --because we suspect, presume, or know that some native Englishes use 'plurality' in a way that distinctly covers them, and this article has undertaken to handle multiple Englishes. (Or "should" not, granting the above argument that this should be consigned to Wiktionary.)
One may say that there are always more than two alternatives, although it isn't clear that all four may be called choices. --P64 (talk) 14:29, 4 June 2012 (UTC)
P.S. That sentence was cut by another editor ten minutes ago. -P64

Definition of the word "plurality"Edit

There have been disruptive edits by an IP address "" deleting the word "plurality" on this page, and other WP articles. This user seems to think that the word "plurality" is a synonym for "diversity". The following is the definition of "plurality" according to Encyclopedia Britannica: "Plurality system, electoral process in which the candidate who polls more votes than any other candidate is elected. It is distinguished from the majority system, in which, to win, a candidate must receive more votes than all other candidates combined. Election by a plurality is the most common method of selecting candidates for public office".[1]Ontario Teacher BFA BEd (talk) 21:13, 1 January 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ "Plurality system Politics". Encyclopedia Britanica.