The help center has links to discussion of the concept of good subjective questions vs bad subjective. In politics, it seems that many questions might well be subjective, but fit the parameters as good subjective, and specifically prompt answers long answers can be backed-up with facts.

The field of "political science" is intrinsically a social science, where subjective matters can be supported by empirical measurements without formal proof. But without proof they may not be answerable to the degree a hard science question can be.

So is putting a question on-hold because it seems opinion based reason to cut off answers to a well-scoped comparative question without permitting a several answers and/or refinement through discussion?

I guess another way of asking this might be can there be good opinion vs. bad opinion? I can easily see that such questions might be quickly protected to avoid trivial opinions, but answers containing how and why seem like they can add value in a community focused on social sciences.

Another relevant approach to this may be examining the politics.SE scorecard for graduation from Beta. I'd suggest we would move toward improving the number of answers per question by permitting more subjective questions. Take for example the clearly opinion-based question Why does partisanship trump concerns about hypocrisy with voters? There is no single answer. This question generated a substantial number of answers (currently 12), and the voting on answers pushed the democratically most correct to the top, without invalidating the less popular opinions.

The reader chooses how much 'noise' they want to consider by choosing when to stop reading from the sorted list.

  • 1
    I'd suggest we would move toward improving the number of answers per question by permitting more subjective questions: Note that the area51 scorecard isn't really used to determine graduation status at all. The current de-facto criteria is "When a site starts to consistently receive 10 questions/day, we’ll consider it for graduation".
    – user11249
    Nov 3, 2018 at 4:30
  • Do you have any examples of questions that were put on hold as "primarily opinion based" but you feel should be allowed?
    – user11249
    Nov 3, 2018 at 4:31
  • The question came from my experience with politics.stackexchange.com/questions/35050/… Nov 3, 2018 at 4:33
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    The irony of course is that labeling something "primarily opinion-based" is itself an opinion. Nov 3, 2018 at 4:42
  • @Burt_Harris Why is that ironic? Nov 5, 2018 at 2:14
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    You're completely changing the meaning of the close reason by leaving out a major keyword. The full reason is that they are **primarily opinion-based* - the main substance of any answer will be a person's opinion, not facts or evidence or reason.
    – Nij
    Nov 28, 2018 at 5:13

3 Answers 3


Proposed Criteria

Can this question be clearly defined and answered with fact or research based information?


Taking Burt's example of the question "Are caucuses less democratic than primaries?" the proposed solution would require:

  • Clearly defined terminology. In the example question the OP requires a definition of the word "democratic". If OP is relating the term to the form of government known as Democracy, we could rely on the Merriam-Webster definition

"a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections"

  • A clearly defined question. I believe this example question fails this criteria. Breaking down OP's question they are asking: Are caucuses less representative of a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections than primary elections? Since the definition is largely binary, both meet all of the criteria of a Democracy, so one cannot be "more democratic" than the other without broadening the definition.
  • I'm not sure what you mean by saying "the definition is largely binary". I would consider a political system which allows women to vote to be more democratic than one which does not. Dec 1, 2018 at 2:06
  • If a system doesn't allow women to participate, does it meet the binary classification of the definition of a democratic government at all? In other words, it's not more or less Democratic, it just isn't Democratic. Dec 5, 2018 at 21:01
  • Under you logic, the US wasn't established as a democratic government. I can't see that as a valid argument that being democratic is binary.. P.S. I try to be careful not to capitalize democratic unless referring to the political party. Instead I use democratic to mean "government by the people." Dec 5, 2018 at 21:28
  • I mean this with respect: When you make claims, it's helpful if you actually back them up with evidence or at a minimum explain why you believe them to be true. When you're discussing primary elections, you have to frame things a little differently. Much like the US has a citizenship requirement to vote, party organizations must define who the "people" are that make up their voting populace. The defined "people" who make up the party are the supreme power in either election type, and in both types they exercise that right through either direct or indirect representation. Dec 8, 2018 at 18:10

Judging from how it is often handled on other stacks, "Primarily opinion-based" does not mean "In some way relates to, or is subject to, some level of subjectivity", but means "If you ask 5 subject-matter experts, you will get 6 completely different answers". If there are "best practices" in the field or an "majority academic consensus" on the topic, it's not primarily opinion-based despite the fact that there may exist people somewhere out there in TV land who would disagree with the "standard" answer or otherwise offer some sort of dissent.

If any of the following exist with respect to a question, it is probably not primarily opinion-based:

  • A set of industry or professional "Best Practices" provides a standard or default answer.
  • An academic consensus exists among a significant number of subject-matter experts, even if some offer alternative explanations, as long as the "alternative" explanations have some level of rationality. Saying "purple sparkle rainbow unicorns did it" is not rational.
  • There is no consensus or majority opinion, but answers can be provided that have some foundation in theory, logical reasoning, or empirical data. If providing an educated foundation for an answer is essentially impossible and any answer would more or less equate to "this is what I think..." or "my leader teaches...", it is probably primarily-opinion-based.

Examples of "good" subjective questions:

  • Why did Germany invade the Soviet Union in WW2? - Most historians and political scientists agree on the basic facts, even though some place greater emphases on certain ones than others.
  • How did the Republican Party rise to prominence in US politics? - An answer would discuss the socioeconomic conditions existing in the US at the time, how the Republican Party responded to them, how other parties failed in some way to adequately respond to them to the extent that they gave the Republicans an advantage, and when and how they were able to capture major elections.
  • Are adult education interventions effective in reducing illiteracy? - While some might disagree on the extent or whether the current level of effort is enough, there is plenty of research data that one can cite in support of an educated answer.

Examples of primarily opinion-based questions:

  • What color tie does Trump look best in? - There is no way anyone could ever identify what a good answer would look like, let alone come up with one.
  • Should the US have stayed out of the Korean War? - Also too broad.
  • Is Communism good? - This question does not explain what "good" means. A better way to ask would be to ask about some specific benefit for which data exists or could be gathered.

Proposing an answer to my question:

Let the community judge the quality of a question by voting. This approach seems well supported by the meta topic: Why is voting important?.

If a question is put on hold through votes, rather than by a moderator, there seems less chance that a potentially good subjective question get's shut down.

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