Majority Rule: Definition & Examples

Majority Rule: Definition & Examples
Coming up next: The Populist Party: Definition, Platform, Goals & Beliefs

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is Majority Rule?
  • 1:05 Majority Rule In The U.S.
  • 2:20 Advantages
  • 3:30 Disadvantages
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Carroll

Erin has taught English and History. She has a bachelor's degree in History, and a master's degree in International Relations

This lesson will help you understand the system of majority rule. We will briefly discuss what it means, how it is used in the United States and some of its advantages and disadvantages.

What is Majority Rule?

Five friends hanging out on a Friday night are trying to decide where they should go for dessert. Some of them want ice cream while others want frozen yogurt. When they put it to a vote, three vote for ice cream and two for frozen yogurt so the five friends head to the ice cream shop. Ice cream wins by the power of majority rule.

Majority rule is a decision-making system. In a choice or vote between two or more options, the option that wins over 50% of the vote wins. Although we use this strategy in daily life as in the ice cream/frozen yogurt dilemma, more often we think of majority rule in government. When a new law is voted on or a president is being elected we often use majority rule. The will of the majority of people is respected and controls the outcome almost all the time.

Majority rule is similar but slightly different from a plurality system. When a plurality system is used, the winning candidate only needs to win more votes than the other candidates. In a majority rule system a candidate needs to win over 50% of the overall vote.

Majority Rule in the United States

Majority rule is used in many democracies. Indeed, the United States has long used a majority system as the basis for political decision-making. For example, in order to be elected president of the United States, a candidate must achieve a majority of votes in the Electoral College. There are currently 538 electoral votes, so a candidate must win 270 electoral votes to be declared the winner and president.

Some presidents have been elected with less than a majority of the popular vote but had more electoral votes. This occurred a few times in presidential elections. One example is the election in the year 2000 involving George W. Bush and Al Gore. Gore actually won more popular votes but lost the election because he had fewer electoral votes.

Majority rule isn't the only system used in the United States. Interestingly, when we look at the make-up of the Electoral College, two states, Maine and Nebraska, have opted to use a version of proportional representation to allot their electoral votes. In California, for example, all of the electoral votes would go to one candidate. In Maine and Nebraska the electoral votes can be split between the candidates based on the proportionality of the vote.

Map of the number of electoral votes by state
map of electoral votes

Advantages

One of the biggest advantages of majority rule is that decision-making is quick and clear. There is no need for compromise or negotiation after the decision has been made. The final decision is respected as the will of the majority of the people.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support