What's a plurality vs. a majority?

A viewer asked this question on 7/5/2000:

what is the difference between plurality versus majority in a election.

JesseGordon gave this response on 7/6/2000:

A majority means that more than 50% of the voters voted for the person or issue in question.

A plurality means that less than 50% voted for the person or issue, but that vote got more than any other vote. For example, let's say that all the current presidential candidates keep their current standing into November. An outcome might be:
Bush 45%
Gore 42%
Nader 6%
Buchanan 4%
Browne 3%
Bush would have a plurality (the most votes) but not a majority (over half the votes).

Some elections allow victory by plurality and some require an absolute majority. In some cases, if there's a plurality, the top 2 or 3 vote-getters enter into another round of voting, until there's a majority. In the case of the US presidential election, winning requires a majority of the electoral vote (not the popular vote), which are determined by winning each state by majority.

A viewer asked this question on 6/7/2000:

What is the difference between majority and plurality?

budgetanalyst gave this response on 6/7/2000:

A majority is more than half. A plurality is the greatest number for one but less than half.

In elections, a majority happens when more than half of the electorate votes for one candidate. For example, if a candidate gets 50.1% of the vote, she gets a majority.

A plurality happens when less than half vote for a candidate that wins because the vote is split among more than two candidates. For example, candidate A gets 45% of the vote, candidate Y 25%, and candidate Z 20%, with miscellaneous candidates getting the rest (or splitting 10%). Candidate A wins by a plurality.

Whether or not a candidate with a plurality wins depends on the laws of the jurisdiction involved. Laws usually require that a minimum percentage of the vote be for a candidate to win by a plurality, and others require a runoff among the two candidates with the most votes to have a win by a majority.

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