It is inevitable that questions like these will come up:

The question is do we allow them or should they be closed/re-worded? According to the FAQs they are not practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

And, just so the description is rounded, here's what I find a perfectly on topic, non-debatable, question that has been asked so far: How do instant runoffs work?

4 Answers 4


For anyone already familiar with the Stack Exchange format, This one should be really easy.

A Stack Exchange-style Q&A generally forgoes questions that are overly subjective, argumentative, require extended discussion, or polling the community. While questions about political processes can raise a lot of controversy, this is not a discussion board or a debate forum.

Most political forums devolve into a lot of heated discussions, debate, and opinionated in-fighting that — while plenty entertaining — cause most forums to inevitably break down. If that is what you are looking for, there are plenty of forums to bring your topics of discussion.

We're going to try something a bit different

This political forum is a place for questions that can be answered with facts, references, or at least some semblance of personal expertise. Questions don't have to be "one correct answer" or even "completely objective", but they should certainly adhere to the concepts behind the blog post:

Good Subjective, Bad Subjective

Guidelines for Great Subjective Questions

  1. Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.
  3. Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  4. Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions.
  5. Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
  6. Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun.

If a question falls outside these guidelines, it should likely be closes as "not constructive." The description of that close reason is much more descriptive than the label itself.

This question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

If that describes the question you are reading, close it as not constructive. But when you come across a question that doesn't fit these guidelines, please take the time to leave a some thoughtful comments describing why their question doesn't fit our particular style of Q&A.

It's not obvious how a Stack Exchange site works, and we're the odd man out here. Our facts-only learning ethos goes against how most debate-driven, political discussion forums operate, and we don't want to portray this site as a bunch of close-happy, censuring fascists.

  • I think your requirements are contradictory. Lets say there is a question around the politics of abortion, which is to a large degree predicated on an individuals view of when a fetus gains rights. You will get answers that fit your 6 criteria above. But they will also fit your 4 reasons to close it. So which is it? Dec 11, 2012 at 3:54
  • @DavidThielen Impossible to answer without context (i.e. what the user is actually asking). But in general, "we expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion." <-- That's the close reason behind 'not constructive'. Dec 11, 2012 at 12:29
  • I feel bad because I signed up to support the politics site and so I was one of the votes for it. And that cam with a commitment to be involved. But I think this is going to be something I don't want to be part of where many of the interesting questions will get closed because the answers are contentious. (In fact the core of politics is argument, opinion, and compromise.) Dec 11, 2012 at 16:15

The question, "How do instant run offs work?" may perhaps be too simple. Wikipedia or a dozen other resources answer this question pretty well.

Now, the subjectivity required differs depending on the subject being discussed. Many of the examples you cited as "open ended" can be answered in a neutral fashion by citing the general accepted advantages/disadvantages of these policies. For example, I can imagine someone studying politics being asked these questions ("What are the disadvantages of first-past-the-post electoral systems?") in a short answer format where they are expected to just list certain, generally accepted advantages/disadvantages. Most of these questions can be answered reasonably objectively by stating that in situation X (say two similar candidates), result Y likely occurs (vote splitting) and this result is generally considered undesirable. Most of the debate comes from "which is better", as people argue about the importance of each of the factors, how likely these situations are, ect.

So these questions can be answered well by this site. Additionally, disallowing these questions would be too restrictive as most of the remaining questions could be answered by Wikipedia, giving people no reason to come here.

Therefore I vote in favour of the questions you have listed. I do agree that questions that are too open ended will be one of our biggest problems, just not the examples you have listed


I do think topics like these will be asked here and I think they should be allowed because they can be very informative. However, I'd suggest that they be made into community wikis so that people can find the relevant information, hopefully with sources and studies linked, and any similar ones closed as duplicates of the original wiki.

  • 2
    The idea of allowing more subjective questions by using Community Wiki is no longer sanctioned by StackExchange
    – Casebash
    Dec 4, 2012 at 22:28
  • Good point @Casebash I had missed that.
    – Kevin Peno
    Dec 4, 2012 at 22:30
  • 2
    @Casebash, I wonder if we should "try something a bit different", as in Robert Cartaino's answer. Politics is much less of a science than most Stack Exchange subjects. So CW might be a good way to summarize issues that we really want to examine, but for which there is not much hard data (yet). Dec 6, 2012 at 6:48

I'm adding this as an answer instead of a comment because of the length. This comment, in my opinion is one of the primary things that negatively impacts StackOverflow. Moderators who are zealots about limiting posts to only ones that fit their narrow perception of what is acceptable.

On a technical Q&A site this works, albeit imperfectly. But for a site centered around politics, where pretty much all the interesting questions do not have a clear answer, and where studies have shown that the more respected an expert in the field is, the more often they are wrong, a restriction to questions with clear answers will turn this into an uninteresting site focused on the minutiae that can be clearly answered patrolled by a small group of dictators.

It's too bad because a site focused on political questions, that included the interesting questions (ie the ones without a clear answer) could be really useful.

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