Other websites actively discourage downvoting someone because you disagree. But Stack Exchange is not like other sites.

There are a few reasons why you might disagree with someone's answer. Almost all of them means there's something wrong with the answer.

  • You might have misread or misunderstood the answer. Because this can be the case, try to have a second look just so you know you did your due diligence before deciding to downvote.
  • The answer might be wrong. Being wrong is the best reason to downvote. As a note, don't flag a question simply because it is incorrect. Moderators are not the arbiters of correctness.
  • The answer might be right, but it doesn't have the information that you need to understand why it is right and/or verify that it is right. Even if you know what the right answer says, that's not very useful to you unless you know that it is indeed the right answer. Answers that are not useful are fair game to downvote. This information usually comes in the form of references, but understand that references do not have a 1 to 1 relation with proof. If the answer convinces you for other reasons, feel free to upvote it. If the answer does have references, but they are not convincing, then feel free to downvote. Also, even if you do agree with an answer, if you believe that the answer doesn't contain information that verifies it, then you can still downvote it.
  • The answer is an opinion, which is discouraged. The goal of Politcis.SE is to be a resource for people to learn facts. There are many of other places where you can go to find people's opinions. An exception is if the answer is about a notable person's or group's opinion.

Things to keep in mind:

  • It is important to understand what your goals are when downvoting and up-voting a post. Answers aren't always simple and can have have multiple aspects, and they can also be incomplete, or a best estimate. If you think one of the above suggestions doesn't apply in a specific case, that is your prerogative.
  • All of this post is suggestions. In reality, you are free to decide for yourself whether or not an answer can be upvoted or downvoted based on almost any criteria you want, with the exception of serial voting or revenge voting.

The reason I'm writing this, is because over time, I've noticed a trend where well written answers that aren't necessarily useful, constantly get rewarded. When I come to stack exchange looking for answers, I want to see answers that actually improve my understanding, and it is frustrating to see that being long and/or well-written are accepted as substitutes for being informative, correct, and useful.

In conclusion: Stack Exchange is not like most other sites. Don't be afraid to downvote an answer because you disagree with it. The fact that you still disagree with the answer even after reading it, means that the answer likely failed in it's purpose.

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    Re: "There are a few reasons why you might disagree with someone's answer. Almost all of them are bad": Only after reading your whole question did I realize that by "bad" you don't mean "bad reasons for disagreeing", but rather "indicators that the answer is bad". Maybe this can be rephrased somehow? – ruakh Feb 17 '17 at 4:52
  • its purpose, please? :) – Federico Feb 17 '17 at 10:13
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    I would think that encouraging people to downvote answers they disagree with that are well written and backed up just because the answer is on the opposite viewpoint would be the exact opposite of the behavior we want to encourage. – SoylentGray Feb 17 '17 at 16:03
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    Encouraging down voting because of a general disagreements seems ill advised for a Stack Exchange community that suffers from significant partisan division. – Drunk Cynic Feb 17 '17 at 17:16
  • @SoylentGray I pointed out specific reasons why disagreement is probably a sign of a bad answer, and "just because the answer is on the opposite viewpoint" is not one of them. – Sam I am Feb 19 '17 at 4:44
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    @SamIam, the usage of "disagree" vs. "opposite viewpoint" here seems confusing, or perhaps obscure. It's unclear how it might be possible for X to hold an opposite viewpoint from Y without X disagreeing with Y. – agc Feb 19 '17 at 5:51
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    I'm confused. You start by saying that Stack Exchange is different from other sites and other sites encourage downvoting for disagreement. Your conclusion is that Stack Exchange is different but we should downvote because of disagreement. So it seems that the aspects of Stack Exchange being discussed here are actually the same as other sites, and claiming that Stack Exchange is different is just confusing. – David Richerby Feb 20 '17 at 14:56

On a Stack Exchange that suffers a noticeable level of partisan division, encouraging down voting for general disagreement is ill advised.

If the information contained is provably false, downvote. If the answer is presented with a significant narrative stint, downvote.

However, if question is specifically trying to address the ideological differences between to view points, or highlighting differences between the ideologies, perhaps the better response is to offer a counter answer from the other perspective.

Admittedly, I say this as one of the more openly conservative individuals on a crowd that has a strong left of center representation. The overall health of the SE would suffer if down votes are cast for general disagreements.

In response to comments: In is not my intention to claim there is virulent liberal bias on this site, or throughout the wherever. It is not my intention to claim that only one side of the isle has vocal personalities that demonstrate a misunderstanding for the SE concept, as it should be applied to politics. On this, I've taken the approach of trying to "police my own," because their disruptive antics would also serve to paint me into a corner. Perhaps I should have left my self identification off of this response, but I saw it as a useful data point. Trawling through previous questions on the Meta, the partisan divide isn't new.

How do we deal with politically divisive news events?
Should Politics SE be split into two separate stack exchanges?
Should the political affiliations of candidates for moderator be disclosed?

Though, I have minor cause to believe there is at least some level of liberal bias from the community.

Anecdote # 1 Why can't Gun Control Legislation get passed?
When the question is in specific regards to a complex partisan issue, a partisan view point would serve as a valid metric. In my response to the question, I provided the view point of the pro gun side, detailing why their will in the fight exceeded that of the opposition. Yet the Q&A is replete with comments trying to label the National Rifle Association as an lobbying arm of the firearms industry, as an act of obfuscation from the true source of the NRA's political capital, being its members. There is even the typical quibble of the "gun show loophole," which isn't a real thing; the gun show loophole is just the right of one private individual to sell their property to another individual.

Anecdote # 2Why don't many of the Republicans in the House and Senate believe in climate change?
Question specifically asks about the Republican reasons for not believing in climate change. Provided answer sums up many of the positions held by self-ascribed republicans that I associate with. Post has been downvoted four times, and attacked as having "really poor reasoning and logic."

Anecdote # 3What makes “ID laws” so controversial in the US?
Answer highlights the arguments on each side of the controversy, with a mention of the "attack the motive" logical fallacy perpetrated by each side. At least six people attacked the claim that "democrats want as many fraudulent voters as possible," failing to realize the claim was attacking the Republican motive assignment. No one attacked the conjecture that Republicans want voter ID's because they hate non-white people.

Anecdote # 4Precedents for White House plugging products?
Body of the question follows the title, with the caveat that it isn't looking for bailouts or "things like energy," but consumer products. My answer highlights the campaign of the Obama Administration to motivate young individuals to buy health insurance from private insurance companies. Yes, this was done to support the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a signature piece of legislation, but the President was still plugging a private product offered by private companies in an attempt to motivate people to purchase insurance instead of paying the tax/penalty. As it stands, the answer meets the requirements of the question, yet it is voted down significantly.

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    Amen. The site already has way too much party line voting. – user4012 Feb 18 '17 at 10:57
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    Why would you disagree with an answer if it's 1. potentially not wrong, 2. not an opinion, and 3. the evidence is satisfactory? – Sam I am Feb 19 '17 at 4:38
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    @SamIam I wouldn't. However, a common reason people disagree with an answer on this stackexchange is the ideological approach it takes. It likely is performed by the edges of each side, sniping at the answers and questions of their opposition. It can be seen in the comments that are often filtered once they become contentious. – Drunk Cynic Feb 19 '17 at 6:17
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    a crowd that has a strong left of center representation -> meh. I suspect the mythical "liberal bias" on this site is much less than you suspect it to be (just like it is in most places). Point in case: I've had to flag many more offensive "conservative" comments than "liberal" ones. – Martin Tournoij Feb 19 '17 at 17:52
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    @Carpetsmoker Er... Having to flag more conservative comments than liberal ones could mean that the site is so conservative-biased that liberals don't comment, or it could mean that it's so liberal that even the most mildly conservative comment gets flagged, or it could be any point between those two extremes. But, in general, most of the comments you find offensive being conservative ones sounds much more like evidence that you're liberal-biased than evidence that you're not. – David Richerby Feb 20 '17 at 15:04
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    @DavidRicherby Calling people idiot or braindead has nothing to do with any political affiliation. I would (and have) flagged such content regardless of whatever else it said. However, such stuff seems to be mostly (though hardly exclusively!) from a conservative bent. I don't really care as such, nor do I assign a great meaning to it, but insistent complaining about mythical "liberal bias" (here and elsewhere) is getting increasingly more tiresome, especially since this is typically asserted with little evidence, combined with personal attacks, and used to handwave away people's arguments. – Martin Tournoij Feb 20 '17 at 15:50
  • @Carpetsmoker I hope the edit has an effect on your understanding of my intentions. Personal attacks are destructive to honest discourse, while dismissing good arguments helps no one. – Drunk Cynic Feb 20 '17 at 17:40
  • A personal comment about Anecdote #3, as it is my question. You say No one attacked the conjecture that Republicans want voter ID's because they hate non-white people. in support of your idea that this site has a liberal bias, but that question got at least two heavily leaning conservative answers, and neither attacked that conjecture. So, should we say that the conservatives here hate Republicans, or that the conjecture is also believed by conservatives? Or do you have an alternative option? – Federico Feb 22 '17 at 8:37
  • Another blatant example of partisan voting: this awful Q has 3 upvotes... and a pretty great answer to it managed to obtain a downvote: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/15794/… – user4012 Feb 22 '17 at 14:08
  • @Federico Intended point: within the scope of that answer, of the two conjectures, one was attacked and the other was presumably accepted. – Drunk Cynic Feb 22 '17 at 15:44
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    To comment on anecdote nr. 2: I downvote not because I disagree, but because the information presented is unsourced, factually incorrect, and even if it were correct, does not answer the question. – gerrit Feb 27 '17 at 17:54
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    @user4012 Note that "partisan voting" also happens the other way. I think that in today's very polarized political situation everyone – at least some of the time – can be blind to "bias" to their preferred side and over-sensitive to "bias" on the opposing side. The question is: is there significantly more bias from one side than the other side? Personally, I see no strong evidence for this. – Martin Tournoij Feb 27 '17 at 18:18
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    @Carpetsmoker - I can. I rarely see more than 1-2 unexplainable "wrong" votes on things that are advantageous to the left; but easily 3-4 on the ones advantageous to the right. Crappy left wing questions get maybe 1-2 DVs; right wing ones of same quality get 5-8. – user4012 Feb 27 '17 at 19:19
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    @blip Too note, I mostly discount the method in which the consensus was determined, and the way it is represented in reporting. A consensus should be founded in repeatable experimentation or rigorous examination of available information. – Drunk Cynic Mar 20 '17 at 21:38
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    Well, we're veering off into an entirely different debate, but there is scientific consensus on this topic. The "in the middle" stance on this issue would be to acknowledge science is overwhelmingly in agreement on this issue. – user1530 Mar 20 '17 at 21:40

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