This site is nearly moribund, especially when compared to active SEs. The number of questions that gets asked and answered every day is well below the number that would be necessary for a thriving stack.

A large part of the problem is that there is not a sizable community involved in the site, and the focus of the site actually harms the effort to develop a community. People have raised issues of accepting literature questions to increase readership and including policy questions, and I believe that those are adequate, but not long term solutions to the problem. The majority of political boards get around this problem by allowing speculation, pontification and opinion based responses but that is neither desirable nor really possible here.

Is a potential solution to try to focus more explicitly on Political Science rather than the quotidian questions of politics, writ large?

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    Political science questions are allowed. Do you know of an instance where that wasn't the case? Jun 6, 2016 at 17:55
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    That's good to know. I can't think of an example where one was disallowed, but there have been several questions which at the very least were voted on to close as being "off-topic" which I defended (and voted to keep open) because they were within core Political Science questions. If I have a chance, I'll start posting some test questions, and see how it fares. I don't think we'll necessarily get answers, but I'd like to see if things get voted as "off-topic" because it isn't about elections, and what. Jun 6, 2016 at 18:11
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    People have the tendency to use "Off Topic" as a catch-all close reason when they want to close a question, even when "unclear what you're asking" or "too broad" are better options. It doesn't always mean that the subject matter is off topic. Jun 6, 2016 at 18:16
  • This post is entirely too broad. You bring up some very valid points I fully agree with, as well as some less valid ones (your last paragraph is... to put it mildly, majorly problematic). Most of the post should IMHO be in (1) separate questions (2) answers to those questions.
    – user4012
    Jun 8, 2016 at 3:45
  • @user4012 That is an interesting suggestion, and perhaps a better use of the format. I will consider it. Jun 8, 2016 at 3:56

1 Answer 1


The best, and most obvious solution, is to deliberately expand the site to include political scientists.

  1. The primary audience for most stacks are academics, or pseudo-academics (meaning people in research positions but not at universities) because they have the most time and knowledge about the topic. One need only look at the success of TeX.SE and Academia.SE—both of which are almost exclusively populated by people in a research environment. This is a ready made source of answers as much as questions, and an active effort to interest them in the site is the single best audience for Politics.SE.

  2. Drive-by participants are generally harmful to the health of the site and degrade the reliability. While asking questions by dilettantes is naturally encouraged by stacks, and trolls are a problem for every site, people only casually interested in politics tend to ask one of three types of questions: 1) a 'leading' question hoping for a certain kind of answer such as this and this (which can lead to up-votes or accepted answers because of political motivation) 2) incredibly specialized questions which would likely require a study to answer like this one, or 3) questions almost exclusively relevant to some specific current event, like this and this. These kinds of questions either fail to interest real experts or would take far to much time to answer to be worth joining the community, and create a question base for search engines that are mostly un-answered, un-helpful, or un-interesting.

  3. Including Political Science will broaden the appeal globally. Politics is local, but Political Science is global. There are people in China right now taking classes on the U.S. government, but their questions are not about how parties could exploit turn-out differences caused by weather. In fact, the American Political Science Association just announced that its flagship journal [will be edited out of Germany]! Discussions about domestic politics such as regime type, democracy, elections use data and information from a wide variety of situations, and people are frequently interested in them, regardless of country of origin. In International Relations, the pull is even stronger, as it doesn't matter what country you are int, International Relations is the same and mostly the same people make up your reading list.

  4. Including Political Science will improve the answers we get once there are enough people. Questions like this one about elections in Ukraine would likely have been answered almost immediately if we had a Ukraine specialist who frequented the board, even once in a while. There are dozens of them out there, either as faculty or grad-students, to say nothing of policy makers with back-grounds in the field. Answers which are backed up with legitimate citations, especially from peer-reviewed, or peer-reviewed-like sources, will be useful outside of answering general curiosity. A scholar can answer a question on SE in a way that someone in the Foreign Ministry could use, whereas many of our answers—mine included, sometimes—amount to "someone on SE said" which is useless to anyone who is serious.

  5. Including political science will improve the questions we get. Political Science includes but is more than Politics. Political scientists know about what is going on in the world (or at least the good ones do) but they look at it and talk about it in a much more long-term way. For example, the Arab Spring is not a sui generis event, but part of understanding the way politics occurs, generally. Some articles decline in usefulness, and some were never useful to begin with, but very little is completely overcome by events. A question such as How can Iraqi Kurdistan become a state? is a subset of questions like "How is sovereignty defined in international law?", "Is international recognition essential for sovereignty?", and "What are examples of nations without states which gained states in the past 50 years?" That can all be answered, and which would be lasting and valuable for years if not decades into the future, but which are not currently the types of questions you see on this site.

  6. Done right, questions and answers would emerge organically as a by-product of higher education around the world. Every day people type into google the prompt they received for their take-home exam/essay question/research project. If they were led to some questions here, as they were written on those questions, they may just a) answer the question if one didn't already exist, b) ask another. Furthermore, lots of scholars might add their 2-cents as they develop course work, or ask their own questions. This is part of what makes Stack Overflow so wonderful, while there are plenty of practitioners there, you also have people with PhDs in Computer Science answering questions, when the question is complicated or unique enough.

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    I'm from South America but here questions about South America are so little (not to say none) I couldn't find it. People here are more focused in USA questions rather than other things.
    – nelruk
    Jun 8, 2016 at 20:27
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    @nelruk I agree, but a good first step would be to start including questions on the site which would still be applicable. Things like "Are presidential systems more prone to coups than parliamentary systems?" While not specifically a South American question, it is something that would matter for the study of South American politcs, and would likely attract south american readers, and experts in south american politics. Jun 10, 2016 at 17:44
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    I'm not saying there's always interest about the politics over South America or Africa (just to mention) but it would be a start to practice some questions about it. You can include Brazil for example because I know there are lots of Brazilians in stackexchange sites. Take what you already have and then go for a new public.
    – nelruk
    Jun 12, 2016 at 6:53

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