Support Vector Machine vs. Logistic Regression


While SVM excels in cases requiring clear separation margins or nonlinear decision boundaries while coping well even with limited samples, LR shines when simplicity meets model interpretability requirements within binary classification tasks. Support Vector Machines are powerful supervised learning algorithms used for classification tasks. The main principle behind SVM is to create an optimal hyperplane that separates different classes in a high−dimensional feature space using mathematical optimization techniques.

Key features of SVM include

  • Versatility:SVM can handle linear as well as non−linear classification problems efficiently by utilizing different kernel functions.

  • Robustness against overfitting:By maximizing the margin between support vectors from different classes, SVM tends to generalize better on unseen data.

  • Applicability in small datasets:Even when provided with limited training samples compared to features, SVM can still produce reliable results.

Advantages of Support Vector Machines

  • Robust against overfitting due to its margin maximization principle.

  • Efficiently handles high−dimensional data by using kernel functions for non−linear decision boundaries.

  • Suitable for both small and large datasets thanks to its reliance on support vectors only.

  • Disadvantages of Support Vector Machines

  • Computationally expensive during the training phase, especially with large amounts of data.

  • Sensitivity towards hyperparameter tuning. Selecting an appropriate kernel function and regularization parameters can be challenging.

Logistic Regression

Logistic Regression differs slightly from its name; it's a statistical model commonly used for binary classifications rather than regression analysis. It estimates probabilities by fitting the observed data to a logistic function or sigmoid curve.

Key features of Logistic Regression

  • Simplicity and Interpretability :LR provides straightforward interpretability thanks to its linearity assumptions; each feature has an associated coefficient contributing either positively or negatively towards predicting outcomes.

  • Computationally efficient :With fewer computational requirements compared to other complex models like neural networks or ensemble methods such as Random Forests.

  • Handles probabilistic outputs effortlessly while allowing threshold adjustments according to domain−specific needs.

Disadvantages of Logistic Regression

  • Limited capabilities in handling non−linear relationships between features in the dataset without additional feature transformations or interaction terms.

  • Prone to overfitting when dealing with a large number of features.

Differences between Support Vector Machine and Logistic Regression

Basic Parameters

Support Vector Machine

Logistic Regression

Optimization Criterion

It follows the margin maximization criteria.

It follows the maximum likelihood criteria

Decision Boundary

Nonlinear and linear decision boundary.

They are bounded to only linear decisions.

Handling Outliers

It is more robust to outliers.

They are sensitive to outliers.

Multi−class Classification

SVM follows OVR or OVO strategies.

Logistics is classified as onevs-rest strategy.

Probability Estimates

It is not inherently provided.

It is provided through a logistic function.


Data’s geometrical properties to be used in SVM.

Statistical concept to be used in Logistic regression.

Optimization Criterion

SVM aims to find the decision boundary that maximizes the margin or distance between different classes' support vectors. On the other hand, Logistic Regression employs maximum likelihood estimation to estimate class probabilities based on input features.

Decision Boundary

While both algorithms can handle linearly separable data, SVM has an edge by being able to employ nonlinear kernels such as polynomial or Gaussian radial basis functions when dealing with complex datasets. In contrast, logistic regression relies solely on linear decision boundaries.

Handling Outliers

Due to its margin-based optimization criterion, SVM tends to be more resilient against outliers compared to logistic regression which heavily relies on maximizing likelihood estimates; hence it may be substantially impacted by outliers present in training data.

Multi−class Classification

In multi−class scenarios where there are more than two classes/classes involved in classification tasks.

  • For SVMs,

  • One approach includes using one−versus−one (OVO) or one−versus−rest (OVR) techniques, creating multiple binary classifiers.

  • Logistic Regression employs the one−vs−rest strategy by training a separate classifier for each class.

Probability Estimates

SVM does not inherently provide probability estimates. Although there exist probabilistic extensions of SVMs, logistic regression directly provides probability scores via the logistic function, making it more suitable for scenarios requiring reliable probabilities.


Consider a dataset where we aim to predict whether an email is spam (1) or not spam (0) based on several features like word count, presence of certain keywords, and sender information.

Using Support Vector Machine

Suppose our data is nonlinearly separable in high−dimensional feature space. SVM can leverage kernel tricks (like Gaussian Radial Basis Function) to map data into higher dimensionality where linear separation becomes possible. It aims to maximize the margin between support vectors from both classes while determining the decision boundary.

Using Logistic Regression

Assuming our dataset has linearly separable classes with no outliers present, logistic regression estimates class probabilities using input features through maximum likelihood estimation. By fitting a sigmoid curve to data points with varying weights assigned to different features, it finds the optimal decision boundary that best separates spam and non−spam emails effectively.


A brief description of Support Vector Machines (SVM) and Logistic Regression (LR) and their contrast are depicted in this article. Therefore, understanding the strengths and limitations outlined above will allow us to make a more informed decision based on our unique circumstances.

Updated on: 26-Jul-2023


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