We have quite a few questions that ask about the hidden, unstated, or ulterior motives of a policy or action.

Some quick examples:

Why US has a biased approach towards Shia Terrorists

Why World is Silent on use of Phosphorus in Aleppo

Why won't NATO Leave syria?

What were the actual motivations that drove the Brexit?

I think we should declare the motivations of a population or politician off topic. These questions are basically asking for speculation especially when they are asking for reasons besides the official explanation.

  • Are there any problems with questions about motivations that are not covered by existing close reasons? Jun 28, 2016 at 14:20
  • Yes I can see an argument about most of these questions that this is about politics and that an analyst could provide an answer. They do not have to be opinion in a way that is bad subjective, and they really are not all that broad. That said most of these questions are very bad subjective, and arguably about psychology not politics. But there is the cross over. Declaring it off topic will clear up any ambiguity and will hopefully guide questions in a more constructive and good subjective manner. Many of these questions could be fixed, but that question is not the one the OP wants to ask. Jun 28, 2016 at 14:26
  • continued... So more than anything this is about giving us the valid reason to take on and make a heroic edit that will improve the content of the site, and while not answering the question they really want to ask, it will give them the information they want to know. Jun 28, 2016 at 14:27
  • @Chad you can also self-answer on meta. No reason to squeeze your whole standpoint into comments.
    – Philipp Mod
    Jul 9, 2016 at 10:00

2 Answers 2


A while after this question was posted, we actually declared questions asking for motivations off-topic by creating the "speculative" custom close reason:

Questions asking for the internal motivations of people, how specific individuals would behave in hypothetical situations or predictions for future events are off-topic, because answers would be based on speculation and their correctness could not be verified with sources available to the public.


Motivation is an important part of understanding politics, and many people in politics do things for reasons that are not always straightforward. Hence motivational questions should be on topic.

There needs to be a distinction between practical motivation (which should be on-topic) and psychological motivation (which should be off-topic). For instance, it would be on topic suggest that a politician supports a policy because a wealthy lobby is donating to their campaign. It would be off topic to suggest that they support it because they are unconsciously rebelling against their father.

Looking at the questions cited as examples:

  • US bias on Shia terrorists: This is a poor question because the poster does not clearly establish that such bias really exists. However the issue of why the US might be attacking one group while supporting another should be answerable in terms of US geopolitical interests and/or the interests of factions within the US government.

  • World silence on use of white phosphorus: the current top-voted answer provides a clear explanation of US interests, and other countries could be explained in similar terms.

  • NATO leaving Syria: again the top answer describes NATO options, their pros and cons, and gives a clear explanation of why the current policy makes sense.

  • Motivations for Brexit: The question text clearly asks what reasons were put forward by the Leave side prior to the referendum, so it is about political arguments rather than "motivation" in the sense being considered here.

  • I agree with you. And in general, every policy or political protests publicly tries to clarify and explain their political motivations. So it isn't prudent to dismiss all such questions as speculative.
    – sfxedit
    Oct 30, 2023 at 2:18

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