In North American English, plurality, also called relative majority in the context of voting, is the largest number of votes received by one candidate (or any proposal in a referendum) out of the entire group of candidates. It is contrasted with an absolute majority, or simple majority, which is more than half of the votes.
Systems allowing plurality election are more vulnerable to corruption using the spoiler effect than systems which require a majority.
In United Kingdom constituency elections, which typically feature four or more candidates representing major parties, a plurality is sometimes called "a majority" or "a relative majority" while the phrases "overall majority" or "absolute majority" are used to describe the support of more than one half of votes cast.
^ abcHenry Watson Fowler suggested in 1954: "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., A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Oxford University Press, 1965.)