differences between the American and the British model of democracy

Human rights protection and government systems

Human rights protection, an independent judiciary, and election processes are among the hallmarks of Britain and America's democracies. Given this, both systems share a number of parallels in terms of government, law, and party systems (Lijphardt, 1984, p. 67). Similarly, the methodologies differ dependent on the complexities of economic and social systems. Westminster, the British way, is based on a parliamentary devolved majoritarian liberal paradigm. In contrast, the American system combines majoritarian liberal and federal presidential democracies (Smith, 1993, p. 560). As highlighted in the subsequent sections, these systems have distinctive features regarding the voter and electoral system, legislation, political leadership, and systems as well as regulatory or executive responsibilities.

Differences in executive or presidential systems

The principal salient difference between the American and British models entails the structure and functions of the executive or presidential system. The American democracy allows citizens to vote for one preferred candidate for the president. After the election, the president has the mandate of nominating or appointing ministers and ambassadors (Pitkin, 1989, p. 56-134). However, the democracy also stipulates that the Senate should advise the president and approve these appointees before they embark on public service provision. In America, the president-elect starts serving after one and a half months. He or she makes the relevant appointments to form the next government and implements appropriate policies. Conversely, the British model differs from the American democracy because it bestows the executive power of the prime minister. Usually, a party leader that enjoys liberal or outright majority takes the position of the prime minister (Norton, 2011, p. 98). Therefore, the British system outlines a parliamentary executive in which the citizens never elect the head of state or the prime minister. Unlike in the American system, the British democracy emphasizes that a candidate that lacks absolute majority should form a coalition to form a government (Bellamy, 1996, p. 45). The case is different from the American model since the winner of a presidential election seeks no partnership from a second or third party to form a government.

Differences in legislation or constitutional models

The legislation or constitutional model is another factor that differentiates the American and British Democracies. Primarily, America has a rigid constitution that outlines the duties and rights of the citizens (Wood, 1992, p. 94). Since 1983, the American constitution has had the least number of amendments, approximately 27. Contrariwise, the British model lacks a single or formal document that serves as a nation's regulations. This means that the British legislation is flexible and the majority are allowed to make the changes deemed relevant (Bogdanor, 2005, p. 85). These forms of democracies differ in that a written document is suitable when amending the constitution because it confers power on the citizens through opinions rather than the head of state or parliament. The written law, for instance, as stipulated by the American system has some advantages concerning bureaucracies like the two-third majority vote in the Senate (Castiglione, 1996, p. 45). A classic example of the bureaucratic procedures is the case of the Healthcare reforms in America also known as the Obamacare that faced many hindrances during the formulation and implementation phases.

Differences in electoral systems

An electoral system is another distinctive feature between the American and British models. The Americans vote or elect people to the House of Representatives and Senate. Normally, each state in America must have at least two representatives in the Senate to represent the views of their citizens (Elkin, 1996, p. 562-593). In conjunction with the House of Representatives, the elected leaders progress the administrative and government agenda of ensuring equal resource distribution and development. Unlike the American system that involves Senate and House of Representatives, the British electoral system includes the election of leaders to the House of Commons while representatives to the Upper or House of Lords are not elected. The House of Lords is comparable to the Senate in America based on the functions and the number of a total number of representatives (Brittan, 1975, p. 130-152). However, the Upper House is unbalanced because the regions namely London and North-West do not account for fair representation despite having a near equal population. Having identified these features of the electoral system, the American model that engages the public participation in critical decision-making and the election of the leaders is quite realistic compared to the British formation.

Differences in election and political systems

Another apparent difference between the British and American models is the election and political system. In America, the leading candidate regardless of the party forms the next government. As witnessed, there has been a change of leadership roles between the primary parties namely Democrats and Republicans, the latest being the election of President Donald Trump. In addition, the winning candidate does not have to involve other parties in the administration (Madison, 1787). However, he or she can collaborate with like-minded individuals from other parties when forming the government. Contrariwise, the British system is different because a party must form a coalition with the other party to attain the absolute majority before forming a government (Prosser, 1996, p. 476). This means that having a majority of representatives in the Senate is not a prerequisite for forming the government. Furthermore, parties in Britain provide their manifesto to the public prior to the election. These declarations act as a contract between the parties and the electorate. On the other hand, parties nominate the preferred candidate to contest the presidential position. In addition, they organize live TV debates and inform the public about their intended plans in campaigns instead of having a written document like in Britain. The British system has limits on the maximum amount that the candidates can spend during the election while the American system has no limits. The nature of political funding makes the American election the most expensive compared to the British elections that regulate funding and donors (Cohen and Rogers, 1983, p. 125).

Differences in presidential and prime ministerial roles

Consequently, the president's mandate in America is different from the roles of prime minister in Britain. The president appoints or facilitates the formation of the judicial system by suggesting preferred candidates while the Senate scrutinizes the appointees (Held, 2006, p. 23). On the other hand, the prime minister lacks the constitutional mandate to appoint members of the judiciary.


Overall, the American and British models are the most formal and democratic systems of administration regardless of the differences. Mostly, these systems promote social, political, and economic growth (Dearlove, 1989, p. 78). However, remarkable differences exist in the presidential and prime ministers roles, the election and judiciary systems. In addition, the nations outline dissimilarities regarding the process of electing members to the House of Commons or Senate. While the American system depends on the choice of the citizens to elect a president, the British system does not involve a voting process. Besides, the president's mandates range from administrative tasks such as appointing the members of the judiciary to diplomatic issues in America, while the British system does not involve making appointments to the magistracy. Overall, both systems exhibit a formal process of ensuring order and coherence of the citizens and the political parties despite their philosophical differences.


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Bogdanor, V. 2005. Constitutional reform in Britain’, Annual Review of Political Science Vol. 8: 73-98.

Brittan, S. 1975. The Economic Contradictions of Democracy’, British Journal of Political Science, 5, pp. 129-59.

Castiglione, D. 1996. The Political Theory of the Constitution’, Political Studies, 44, special issue.

Cohen, Joshua and Rogers, Joel, 1983. On Democracy –toward a transformation of American society, Penguin.

Dearlove, J. 1989. Bringing the Constitution Back In: Political Science and the State’, Political Studies, vol. XXXVII, no. 4.

Elkin, S. L. 1996. Madison and after: The American model of political constitution’, Political Studies, 44(3), 592-604.

Held, D. 2006. Models of Democracy. Cambridge: Polity

Lijphardt, A. 1984. Democracies, Yale UP. RRC 321.8 LIJ.

Madison, J. 1787. The Federalist Papers, 10th Federalist, retrieved http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/federalist/

Norton, P. 2011. The British Polity, London: Longman

Pitkin, H. 1989. ‘Representation’ in T. Ball, J. Farr and R. Hanson (eds) Innovation and Conceptual Change, Cambridge UP.

Prosser, T. 1996. ‘Understanding the British Constitution’, Political Studies, XLIV, pp. 473-87.

Smith, R. 1993. Beyond Tocqueville, Myrdal and Hartz: the multiple traditions in America’, American Political Science Review, 87, 549-66.

Wood, Gordon S. 1992. Democracy and the American Revolution’ in J. Dunn (ed) Democracy: the Unfinished Journey, Oxford UP, 91-105.

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