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Republic vs Democracy: Which Do We Have?

Though often called a democracy, the United States is a republic.

If you notice a yellow highlight on the page, hover over it for the definition!

A lot of people are confused about what type of government the United States has.

The U.S. is often called a “democracy,” but it’s actually a republic. What’s the difference?

In a true democracy (sometimes called direct democracy) the people vote directly on every issue.

A republic uses indirect democracy, instead. This is also called representative democracy, because the people vote for representatives to stand for them, and to make laws. Americans vote for senators and representatives who stand for them in Congress, and make laws. In the United States, our republic must follow the Constitution, which protects the rights of the minority.

A direct democracy, on the other hand, is a pure form of majority rule. Imagine that you and nine of your friends are a democracy. It’s a weekend and you can either go to the movies or the swimming pool. A vote is taken. Six pick the pool while you and three friends choose the movies. As a democracy, you are forced to go to the pool. Whatever the majority says, goes.

The Founding Fathers wanted a constitutional republic for the United States. James Madison described the difference bwtween a republic and a democracy:

“It [the difference] is that in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person: in a republic, they [do] it by their representatives and agents.”

There is no mention of the word “democracy” in the Declaration of Independence nor the U.S. Constitution.

Sarah Cowgill

National Columnist at and Sarah has been a writer in the political and corporate worlds for over 25 years. As a sought-after speech writer, her clients included CEOs, U.S. Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and even a Vice President. She’s worked as Contributing Editor at Scottsdale Life, a news reporter for the Journal and Courier, and guest opinion political writer for numerous publications nationwide. A born storyteller, Sarah has published a full-length book and is currently finishing a quirky, sarcastic, second novel.

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