How conservative do upvotes (and downvotes) for posts tend to swing on Politics.SE? Are the upvotes (and downvotes, hereafter implied instead of repeating these parentheticals) here generally moderate, left, right, or what?

(This question is based on the occasional observation that uninspired posts which seem to be little more than collections of weaker partisan talking points appear to be more popular than might be expected. Perhaps I'm fatally biased...)


The lack of examples is deliberate. This isn't about the merits of a given post, it's about upvote leanings.

Also the distinction between upvotes and upvoters is intentional, since it's not inconceivable that there are more of the former than the latter, so it's less controversial to go with the numbers we have.

This Q. could replace the word conservative with a synonym or a contrary, say either liberal or right wing or left wing, and the logical content would still be identical.

  • 4
    The term “conservative” is confusing here.
    – Golden Cuy
    Oct 21, 2018 at 11:30
  • @AndrewGrimm, Please elaborate.
    – agc
    Oct 22, 2018 at 11:58
  • "conservative" can mean "right-wing", and it can mean "cautious", and it'd take a bit of effort to determine which one is being meant in this context.
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 18, 2018 at 6:17
  • 3
    @AndrewGrimm, See 2nd sentence: "Are the upvotes ... here generally moderate, left, right, or what?"
    – agc
    Nov 18, 2018 at 15:56

2 Answers 2


The highly upvoted questions tend to be those asking about actions of US politicians and US policy. Due to our user base, these questions tend to receive more attention and become featured on the Hot Network Questions list. Many of the questions may contain an implied criticism of a politician or political act, "Why does Trump do xyz?"

It's not clear if an upvote should be seen as an endorsement of the implied criticism, or just the mark of a question which people find interesting. Generally people are more interested in topics that are close to home, and are relatable. Questions that about newsworthy (in the USA) topics get voted up.

What is not evident is a strong right/left bias. Questions which do portray a strong bias get closed. We are usually quite good at dealing with "rants in disguise". Extremist views get downvoted, where "extreme" is defined from a the centre of gravity of the user base.

One class of questions that (rightly) get voted down are those which imply an intolerance of sexuality, gender identification or "race". Moreover most contributors generally accept that some use of democracy is important to the legitimacy of a government. This may be seen as bias towards "liberal democracy".

The HNQ effect means that upvoting for questions is essentially broken: the best questions do not rise to the top, only those chosen by the HNQ algorithm. While there is clear national bias, evidence of problematic left/right bias is harder to find.

  • 1
    Just to add to that, the HNQ algorithm is not a black box, we know how it works. Essentially, it boosts questions that receive a few upvotes and a few upvoted answers in a short time span. Anything after that is more a result of being on the HNQ, users want to get in on the action, so more upvotes and answer come in, keeping the question on the HNQ list. Here's the HNQ query in SQL (there is a post on Meta, but I cannot find it atm).
    – JJJ Mod
    Oct 20, 2018 at 13:20
  • 2
    By the way, there is a recent post on Meta about HNQ revisiting if it works properly.
    – JJJ Mod
    Oct 20, 2018 at 13:21

The left/right bias here on Politics is less than average.

Almost all newspapers, tv channels, and other media show a stronger bias than Politics.SE.

Even within StackOverflow, Skeptics shows more bias than Politics.

The moderators and high-rep regulars are doing a good job of keeping things balanced. Any remaining bias is mostly the result of Hot Network Questions.

  • 1
    Please specify the direction of these various biases.
    – agc
    Oct 22, 2018 at 12:46

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