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Beggar (Mechanical) (OP)
7 Aug 05 15:50
Consider this an informal poll.

Yesteray I was listening to a news article in which it referred to an overwhelming majority of the respondants to a poll. Later, it assigned a number which was 64%. I thought, "majority, yes...overwhelming, nope."

(Full disclosure: They were discussing politics and evidently pushing a point of view)

To me, an overwhleming majority would be circa 80%.

To the rest of you, when you hear the nonprecise term "overwhelming majority," what's the range that pops into your minds?

--------------------
Bring back the HP-15
www.hp15c.org
--------------------

drawoh (Mechanical)
7 Aug 05 16:03
Beggar,

   The key word here is "nonprecise".  The term is also relative.  If your majorities are normally in the region of 50%-51%, then 64% is very high.

   67%  (2/3).

                           JHG
TheTick (Mechanical)
7 Aug 05 17:17
Depends on context.  In the U.S., most presidential elections are one with less than 60% of the popular vote.  In that case, 60% would be truly rematkable.
dbuzz (Structural)
7 Aug 05 20:52
'Nonprecise'?  Do you mean 'imprecise'?

I aree that the 'overwhelming' adjective is often too liberally applied.

Note that there are many different 'majorities' in politics(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majority).
SteamKween (Petroleum)
7 Aug 05 21:13
I agree 60% would consitute a "large" majority, in my mind, not overwhelming.  Sixty percent would not be enough to ammend the Consitution, but enough to pass a bill.  

I guess it could be overwhelming if either:  You are pushing forward a policy that was not popular before, or if you were worried some unpleasantness may be visited upon you.  If 60% of people wanted me dead, that would be overwhelming!

  "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
  Small people always do that, but the really great make you
  feel that you, too, can become great."

  *Mark Twain
Helpful Member!  ajack1 (Automotive)
8 Aug 05 5:21
Well to have a majority in the first place you need 51%, so does another 13% make it overwhelming?

At what point between 51% and 100% does it change from narrow to comfortable to overwhelming to total?

Just sounds like some journo or party putting some spin on the numbers.
CajunCenturion (Computer)
8 Aug 05 7:02
I agree with TheTick; it depends on context.

If I say that Team A won the basketball game with 64% of the points, was it an overwhelming win?  If I say that Team A won the basketball game 64-36, was it an overwhelming win?

Good Luck
--------------
As a circle of light increases so does the circumference of darkness around it. - Albert Einstein

TheTick (Mechanical)
8 Aug 05 8:32
side note...
Wow, I can't believe my own grammar, usage and typing on the last post!  "Elections are one"???
ajack1 (Automotive)
8 Aug 05 8:41
The vast majority were too polite to say anything
sprintcar (Mechanical)
8 Aug 05 10:14
I think they used 'overwhelming' because they didn't think there were that many people dumb enough to respond to their poll......

"If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut."
-- by Albert Einstein

mshimko (Materials)
8 Aug 05 12:40
This is clearly context dependent.

I also suspect that the use the term "overwhelming" is itself an indication of the inherent bias of the person doing the reporting.  Now, if the poll itself were also biased,  then I can foresee a 60% "AGREE" result of a biased poll being called overwhelming, whereas a non-biased poll may only provide a 45% result.

ewh (Aerospace)
8 Aug 05 13:35
Does getting 51% of a vote give you a mandate?  I feel you should have an overwhelming majority for a mandate, but others disagree.
jmw (Industrial)
8 Aug 05 14:09
My first reaction was to agree that "overwhelming" ought to mean a lot more than 64%, 80% seemed low to me.

Then I read the next comment and thought that that was pretty reasonable too but a few moments later and a few responses later and I have overwhelmed my orginal emotive responses with a bit of rationale:

It's all very well saying that in politics 64% is overwhelming but most of the populace listening are not politicians and are bombarded with statistics on every conceivable subject, most of which have different "benchmarks" against which to levy the tag "overwhelming".

In the context of one politician talking to another (or one journalist interviewing another for nothing better to do) the term is probably admissible, since they themselves will understand bpoth the meaning and the attitude behind the speaker: but when aired before the general public, not all so politically savvy, the term is not acceptable and could be construed as misrepresentation, but then, that's what we expect of politicians, so who is fooled?

JMW
www.ViscoAnalyser.com

mloew (Automotive)
8 Aug 05 15:20
To be more precise, a majority is greater than 50% not necessarily 51% and higher. You may need more significant figures to describe the percentage to be meaningful.

Best regards,

Matthew Ian Loew


Please see FAQ731-376 for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

zeusfaber (Military)
8 Aug 05 15:32
Another approach would be to look at the effect, rather than the the simple magnitude.  If the majority is big enough to "overwhelm" the opposition, then surely it may fairly be termed "overwhelming".

UK political parties usually get into power with much less than 50% of the popular vote (it's a consequence of a "first past the post" system, and of having more than two serious national political parties).  For example, the Labour "Landslide" victory of 1997 (in which they won 63.6% of the seats in the House of Commons) was achieved with just 43.2% of the popular vote.

Under this system, if one party managed to poll 64% of the popular vote, it's highly unlikely that any of the other parties would win a single seat - an outcome which would be truly "overwhelming".

A.
StressGuy (Mechanical)
8 Aug 05 17:00
Wouldn't pretty much any majority be "overwhelming"?  As used here, I would see overwhelming as little more than a piece of  media puffery.

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

"All the world is a Spring"

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

flamby (Structural)
9 Aug 05 0:29
If asked to choose from apples, oranges, bananas and cherries, and 60% people choose bananas, that is overwhelming for me. So there are cases where even 50% may be overwhelming.

Simply put, if an event far exceeds the expectations, it becomes overwhelming, whatever the count.

Ciao.

digger242j (Civil/Environmental)
9 Aug 05 23:21
"Does getting 51% of a vote give you a mandate?  I feel you should have an overwhelming majority for a mandate, but others disagree."

Personally, I thought 51% was just squeaking by. It's certainly not a mandate.

My view on whether a majority is "overwhewlming" is, with all other things being equal, if the two opposing sides were to resort to physical violence rather than counting votes, the side with the "overwhelming majority" would easily prevail.
NormPeterson (Structural)
10 Aug 05 9:33
Without anything else to go on, at least 75%.  That's the minimum requirement of ratification of amendments to the US Constitution by the individual states' legislatures or conventions, and the concept of amending that document is that it can only be accomplished by overwhelming consent.

Norm
mshimko (Materials)
10 Aug 05 12:48
What is "overwhelming"?

What is a "mandate"

A check of the dictionary provides the following:

Overwhelming
:tending or serving to overwhelm <an overwhelming majority>; also : EXTREME, GREAT <overwhelming indifference>

Mandate
:an authorization to act given to a representative <accepted the mandate of the people>

Per the dictionary, overwhelming implies "extreme" or "great".

Yet mandate merely means one is authorized,  or in other words, one was elected - PERIOD, with no implication of margine of the win.
digger242j (Civil/Environmental)
10 Aug 05 13:47
Also among the definitions given for mandate are, ": an authoritative command : a clear authorization or direction ".

To me, it's a matter of context.

If a victorious candidate claims the margin of his victory has given him a mandate (in this context, a *clear* authorization to act as he sees fit), then I believe he'd better have a greater margin of victory than two percentage points. That's only one percentage point better than a tie. There's nothing extreme or great about that majority. I'm sure in many elections those two percentage points could go either way, based on the weather's influence on voter turnout.

Mandate, when used in that context, does carry an implication of the margine of the win.
Heckler (Mechanical)
10 Aug 05 14:01
Using words like overwhelming, extreme or great IMO is a way the media machine sensationalizes their stories. The media slants polls all the time to exploit their bias

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