What’s a “true” majority?

First, a simple example, of a minority using the voting system to overrule a majority viewpoint. The question is: “where shall we go to drink tonight?“.

7 votes for different pubs, 3 votes for coffee.FPTP gives you coffee, when 70% of you would rather go down the pub.

Under FPTP, a politician can be elected with a minority of the votes cast; another example:

  • Conservative – 36%
  • Labour – 29%
  • Liberal Democrat – 23%
  • Other – 12%

(Incidentally, these are the national voting figures for the 2010 general election.)

The Conservative candidate would be elected under FPTP, even though 67% of voters didn’t want them – in the jargon, they have a “plurality” not a majority.

We can’t tell with FPTP who those 67% would have wanted, if their preferred candidate didn’t get elected, but AV would allow us to eliminate a candidate and have another round of counting, until it was down to two candidates. Unless those candidate secured exactly the same number of votes in the last round, one of them would have more than 50% of the vote.

That broad support of more than half the voters is a “true” majority.

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