The majority favorite or absolute majority criterion is a voting system criterion. The criterion states that "if only one candidate is ranked first by a majority (more than 50%) of voters, then that candidate must win."[1][2] It is sometimes referred to simply as the majority criterion,[3] but this term is more often used to refer to Condorcet's majority-rule principle.[4]

Some methods that comply with this criterion include any Condorcet method, instant-runoff voting, Bucklin voting, plurality voting, and approval voting.

The criterion was originally defined only for methods based on ranked ballots, so while ranked systems such as Borda fail the criterion under any definition, its application to methods which give weight to preference strength is disputed, as is the desirability of satisfying such a criterion (see tyranny of the majority).[5][6][7][8]

The mutual majority criterion is a generalized form of the criterion meant to account for when the majority prefers multiple candidates above all others; voting methods which pass majority but fail mutual majority can encourage all but one of the majority's preferred candidates to drop out in order to ensure one of the majority-preferred candidates wins, creating a spoiler effect.[9] The common choose-one first-past-the-post voting method is notable for this, as major parties vying to be preferred by a majority often attempt to prevent more than one of their candidates from running and splitting the vote by using primaries.

## Difference from the Condorcet criterion

By the majority favorite criterion, a candidate C should win if a majority of voters answers affirmatively to the question "Do you (strictly) prefer C to every other candidate?"

The Condorcet criterion gives a stronger and more intuitive notion of majoritarianism (and as such is sometimes called majority rule). According to it, a candidate C should win if for every other candidate Y there is a majority of voters that answers affirmatively to the question "Do you prefer C to Y?" A Condorcet system necessarily satisfies the majority favorite criterion, but not vice versa.

A Condorcet winner C only has to defeat every other candidate "one-on-one"—in other words, when comparing C to any specific alternative. To be the majority choice of the electorate, a candidate C must be able to defeat every other candidate simultaneously—i.e. voters who are asked to choose between C and "anyone else" must pick "C" instead of any other candidate.

Equivalently, a Condorcet winner can have several different majority coalitions supporting them in each one-on-one matchup. A majority winner must instead have a single (consistent) majority that supports them across all one-on-one matchups.

## Application to cardinal voting methods

The majority favorite criterion was initially defined with respect to voting systems based only on preference order. In systems with absolute rating categories such as score and highest median methods, it is not clear how the majority favorite criterion should be defined. There are three notable definitions of for a candidate A:

1. If a majority of voters have (only) A receiving a higher score than any other candidate (even if this is not the highest possible score), this candidate will be elected.
2. If (only) A receives a perfect score from more than half of all voters, this candidate will be elected.
3. If a majority of voters prefer (only) A to any other candidate, they can choose to elect candidate A by strategizing.

The first criterion is not satisfied by any common cardinal voting method, but arguably lacks the persuasive force it has when comparing ordinal systems. Ordinal ballots can only tell us whether A is preferred to B (not by how much A is preferred to B), and so if we only know most voters prefer A to B, it is reasonable to say the majority should win. However, with cardinal voting systems, there is more information available, as voters also state the strength of their preferences. Thus cardinal voting systems do not disregard minority voices when making decisions; a sufficiently-motivated minority can sometimes outweigh the voices of a majority, if they would be strongly harmed by a policy or candidate.

## Examples

### Approval voting

 Main article: Approval voting

Approval voting trivially satisfies the majority favorite criterion: if a majority of voters approve of A, but a majority do not approve of any other candidate, then A will have an average approval above 50%, while all other candidates will have an average approval below 50%, and A will be elected.

### Plurality voting

Any candidate receiving more than 50% of the vote will be elected by plurality.

### Instant runoff

Instant-runoff voting satisfies majority--if a candidate is rated first by 50% of the electorate, they will win in the first round.

### Borda count

 Main article: Borda count

For example 100 voters cast the following votes:

Preference Voters
A>B>C 55
B>C>A 35
C>B>A 10

A has 110 Borda points (55 × 2 + 35 × 0 + 10 × 0). B has 135 Borda points (55 × 1 + 35 × 2 + 10 × 1). C has 55 Borda points (55 × 0 + 35 × 1 + 10 × 2).

Preference Points
A 110
B 135
C 55

Candidate A is the first choice of a majority of voters but candidate B wins the election.

#### Condorcet methods

Any Condorcet method will automatically satisfy the majority favorite criterion, as a majority choice of the electorate is always a Condorcet winner.

### Cardinal methods

#### Score voting

 Main article: Score voting

For example 100 voters cast the following votes:

Ballot Voters
A B C
10 9 0 80
0 10 0 20

Candidate B would win with a total of 80 × 9 + 20 × 10 = 720 + 200 = 920 rating points, versus 800 for candidate A.

Because candidate A is rated higher than candidate B by a (substantial) majority of the voters, but B is declared winner, this voting system fails to satisfy the criterion due to using additional information about the voters' opinion. Conversely, if the bloc of voters who rate A highest know they are in the majority, such as from pre-election polls, they can strategically give a maximal rating to A, a minimal rating to all others, and thereby guarantee the election of their favorite candidate. In this regard, score voting gives a majority the power to elect their favorite, but just as with approval voting, it does not force them to.

#### STAR voting

 Main article: STAR voting

STAR voting fails majority, but satisfies the majority loser criterion.

#### Highest medians

 Main article: Highest median voting rules

It is controversial how to interpret the term "prefer" in the definition of the criterion. If majority support is interpreted in a relative sense, with a majority rating a preferred candidate above any other, the method does not pass, even with only two candidates. If the word "prefer" is interpreted in an absolute sense, as rating the preferred candidate with the highest available rating, then it does.

##### Criterion 1

If "A is preferred" means that the voter gives a better grade to A than to every other candidate, majority judgment can fail catastrophically. Consider the case below when n is large:

Ballots (Bolded medians)
# ballots A's score B's score
n 100/100 52/100
1 50/100 51/100
n 49/100 0/100

A is preferred by a majority, but B's median is Good and A's median is only Fair, so B would win. In fact, A can be preferred by up to (but not including) 100% of all voters, an exceptionally severe violation of the criterion.

##### Criterion 2

If we define the majority favorite criterion as requiring a voter to uniquely top-rate candidate A, then this system passes the criterion; any candidate who receives the highest grade from a majority of voters receives the highest grade (and so can only be defeated by another candidate who has majority support).

7. ^ Hillinger, Claude (2006-05-15). "The Case for Utilitarian Voting". Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. SSRN 878008. `((cite journal))`: Cite journal requires `|journal=` (help)