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What is an absolute majority? Two definitions seems to contradict each other.

  • The first is that an absolute majority is a majority of all the possible votes, including votes of electors not present or declining to vote.
  • The second is that an absolute majority is a majority of the votes cast, in contrast with a plurality (= more vote that any opponent)

For instance, imagine an organization that specifies that decisions are to be taken by absolute majority. There are 20 members in the organization, and 10 meet for a general meeting. They vote for a motion 6 to 4. Under the first definition, the motion is rejected (6 out of 11 votes needed). Under the second, it passes (6 out of 6 votes needed).

The first definition is supported by this Wikipedia article and its third source, but its second source is more ambiguous. Wiktionary and the Free Dictionary list both possibilities under the same entry. Additionally, in other languages (french at least), the definition clearly matches the second case, hinting at possible regional differences.

Is there an authoritative definition of the term, or is it different from country to coutry or institutions to institutions?

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    You have a bunch of sources giving different definitions. What source or argument could an answerer possible provide to give you information you don't already have?
    – Publius
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 7:08

3 Answers 3

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Absolute majority always defined by the institution, or the context.

Take some examples:

  • Absolute majority may mean 50% + 1 vote, which means the sum of the opposite votes didn't and couldn't sum up to 50%. I would expect based on sources in the question and the by Hungarian example this is the general definition.
  • Absolute majority may be defined as 2/3 of the votes. Which means no other votes are close to contest the majority.
  • Absolute majority may be the 100% of the votes (excluding or including abstain votes or non-votes). Since it is rare to archive, this method typically used in small scale where the people can negotiate the final conclusion of the topic.

If you want to be sure what is "absolute majority", you always need to check the definition in the right context. It always mean stricter definition than the Simple majority.

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    I've +1'd, but this answer would be better if you addressed the topic of quorum as well. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 14:08
  • In this case, the question almost intermingled the two as a single definition of a majority. Regardless, the answer would remain the same. Both are defined by the body and it's governing documents and both vary a great deal. Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 20:39
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    I've never seen "absolute majority" used to mean a 2/3 majority. The usual term in English is "supermajority." Also, "majority" means "more than 50%," not 50%+1. Sometimes, "more than 50%" is 50%+0.5.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 21:39
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There is no universal definition of an "absolute" majority. The definition of a majority is regularly outlined in governing documents like a constitution, standing rules, or in some cases deferred to the latest version of Robert's Rules.

The definition can sometimes be changed from session to session, more serious measures like those that have the potential to impact the minorities ability to voice opposition may require a different standard than others.

Excellent theoretical question, because it's difficult to define the default majority given that one isn't defined. Robert's would say that precedent and customs would govern a body without written rules.

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In an absolute majority a candidate receives more than half of the votes cast (i.e. 50% +1)

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  • Welcome to Politics.SE! Unfortunately, this answer doesn't really add anything to CsBalazsHungary's answer, and doesn't provide anything to support this definition (the question already mentioned it as a possiblity).
    – Bobson
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 16:17
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    If there is an odd number of votes cast then it is not possible for anyone to receive 50%+1 votes, but someone receiving 50%+0.5 votes has received a majority. It's much simpler and more accurate to say "more than 50%."
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 21:42

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