This might be a duplicate, but I couldn't find a question about this on meta.

So, I'm active here now for a few months, and i find it really interesting to read answers to questions about topics I haven't even thought about before. Also I try to give an answer as often as I can. Here starts my problem: I know that I have very strong political opinions, and that I'm probably on the far left of the political spectrum. However, most of my opinions come from knowledge or information I gathered over the years. And I'm afraid that this combination leads me to tend to answer often very biased (even if I can back it up with facts), as the answers sometimes don't include information of the opposing site on this topic. I often even scratched complete answers thinking that they would be downvoted into oblivion as too opinion-based.

So my question is: to which extend is it acceptable to give one-sided answers, as politics do rarely come without opinions on a topic, and I, like many others, often don't even notice how biased the answer we give is.

I think this answer of mine kinda shows my struggle. I think i got 8 up- and 6 downvotes for it, which implies a lot of controversy in this answer.


3 Answers 3


One thing I'd suggest is to re-evaluate whether it is truly necessary to include things that you know are opinion based.

It won't really change anything. As Britain never really sheltert refugees, due to their geographic position and (Warning: opinion-based) xenophobic tendencies.

Do we really need to know why Britain doesn't shelter many refugees in order to understand how Brexit will affect European Immigration policies?

Probably not. It's best not to include it.

(Opinion based:) The actual way to fight extremist is to provide better standards to the simple workers and employees and unemployed people as well (As Portugal is doing it), but this is another topic.

Do we need to know the actual way to fight extremists in order to understand how Brexit will affect European Immigration policies?

Probably not. It's best not to include it.

  • 1
    The first part is actually not so much opinion based. For example, there's data on xenophobia per geographic area. This data (limited to a few larger cities) actually shows that UK cities do pretty well compared to others. Rather than say it's POB I'd say it's an unsupported claim.
    – JJJ Mod
    May 10, 2019 at 12:53
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    First point here is completely wrong! Xenophobes in Britain were diagnosed as major factor in Brexit vote "too may aliens, keep British soil brutish, for us…" Apart from other factors, this is an influence on "how many can we do" for all the other EU states, who also have their "skeptics", xenophobes and fascists. These are now appeased in Poland, Hungary, Germany, France, Sweden etc, in that they all talk more about limitations and reductions, in part because of the xenophobics & fascists, who get voted for more. How can an answer be comprehensive if it's advised to leave out major factors? May 16, 2019 at 12:02

First of all, it helps to receive your news from a diverse number of sources. Every news outlet has some political leanings which do affect what they report on and how they report on it. So if you rely only on news sources which align with your political ideology (or even worse: only read what people with your political ideology share on the internet) you are going to develop a very narrow view of the world. There is no political ideology which has all the perfect answers to all the problems in the world. Taking a look at how the "other side" talks about events can be really illuminating (even if just to understand where their "crazy" ideas come from). Don't let them convince you of their ideology, but at least give them the opportunity to show you any weaknesses of yours.

Now let's take a look at the answer you linked to and how it could be improved:

As Britain never really sheltered refugees, due to their [...] (Warning: opinion-based) xenophobic tendencies

The "(Warning: opinion-based)" doesn't make up for the fact that you are accusing all of Britain of xenophobia here without even providing a proper source to back up that claim. If I were a Brit and would self-identify as cosmopolitan, I might be offended by this.

a complete mess [...] no other EU-country is that stupid.

Please don't describe policies you don't agree with as "complete mess" or "stupid". If you think they are bad, describe their outcomes or how they don't lead to their original intentions.

Many poor and less educated people tend to blame their problems on foreigners

This is an ad-hominem attack. You imply that all xenophobes are uneducated and that their views are the results of their lack of education. First, this is easy to refute. There are several examples of highly educated and rich people who are against immigration. Second, you are not going to convince anyone that their point of view is incorrect by insulting them.

Bottom line: You could improve your answer a lot by simply refraining from insulting your political opponents and their views. And when you feel that you need to add a "Opinion Based" disclaimer to a statement, you should better not write this statement at all. There are many websites around which encourage you to post your personal opinions, but this isn't one of them.

  • Yes, those are good points. Thanks for the feedback.
    – miep
    May 9, 2019 at 10:21
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    Are you seriously suggesting that most xenophobes are highly educated? There's actually research on the correlation between xenophobia and education, and the correlation is in the direction I expected, i.e. the less educated are more xenophobic, on average. doi.org/10.1080/13691830124482 May 11, 2019 at 14:09
  • Pointing out that fact may be a gaffe in some contexts, e.g. Clinton and "the deplorables", but that doesn't change the facts. May 11, 2019 at 14:16
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    @Fizz Yes, statistics say that there is a negative correlation between xenophobic viewpoints and level of education. But 1. correlation does not imply causation and 2. that doesn't mean all xenophobes are uneducated. For example, Steve Bannon has two master degrees. When you make this argument, the average xenophobe will look at the people they follow, see that there are some highly educated people among them and dismiss your argument as wrong. You are not going to convince anyone.
    – Philipp Mod
    May 12, 2019 at 6:51
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    A cosmopolitan Brit understands the quote as: "alas, I know them and I see them on my ride home, every day, it's a mess, and a pity how much this has influenced policy". Any non-cosmo will of course say in public "I'm no xenophobe. Many of my friends are xenos". The one & only thing improvable here is providing a backing up source. Why do so many here think that 'politeness' means censoring language or facts? Tendencies in UK≠all Brits. X are found in every corner, Brexit has a significant part reason in these attitudes, and other EU members took notice. &Who shall be convinced by PoSE posts? May 16, 2019 at 12:16
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    Further: "Many poor people tend…" is not ad hominem, not an attack, doesn't 'imply' the way you read it. You read that apparently either without "many" or with "all and exclusively"? It's not an attack if you describe what scholars find and repeat how they describe it. It's an assertion that might need backup (I even say "does", but here, lack of quality control means assumed 'widespread common knowledge' seems to fly w/o.) If a reasoned, factual, quoted/cited, analytical, scientific description is read as "fallacy" & "attack", then it's really all 'in a mess' with this SE! Plz, revise. May 17, 2019 at 11:12

Here's my way for dealing with keeping my opinions out of an answer:

First, I try to stay out of questions which can't have a truly non-opinionated answer. Often I'll vote to close them as too broad, unclear, not in good faith, or some other reason, or edit them to make the un-opinionated part clearer. The question you linked to is borderline as-is, and should probably be edited to make the reference request more prominent.

Secondly, I try to base the answer on quotes from primary sources as much as possible. You can look at some of my answers for examples, but typically I'll quote from transcripts or other documents, sometimes with added emphasis, and then explain how it relates. When there aren't primary sources, I'll look for an analysis site (such as FiveThirtyEight) or a relevant news article (keeping in mind the media bias chart). If the source leans too heavily towards one side or the other, I'll point that out when citing it (e.g. "but consider the source"), but as long as you stick to the green box, it probably won't be necessary.

Finally, when I know there is a point of contention, I will specifically acknowledge that it is contentious, usually without giving my opinion (although I'll sometimes include it in a footnote or other subtext).

Avoiding opinionated words (like "stupid") is something that I don't generally have to explicitly think about, but it's also important. Once you're done with your answer, read it over while asking yourself if you'd like to be described that way.

This answer of mine is probably my best example of all the above: I answered a question on what was a highly controversial topic by citing a primary source and analyzing it, then called out where the line between fact/analysis and opinion is. I then added some of my own analysis, clearly marked off from the rest of the answer.

  • This reads as if you believe 'opinion' to be based on magical 'bad words', like "stupid". Yet I find a lot of opinion in your posts as well. Not only in magic words like great, clear, easier etc. Evaluation cannot be free of opinion and adjectives or adverbs aren't a problem class of words, not even if expressing sth negative. Thinking like that "is a bug in the process". Or a feature? You decide. That said, on PoliticsSE it seems as if opinions are only then a problem if they are the wrong ones. May 15, 2019 at 10:34
  • @LangLangC - I never claimed to be perfect or to always get it right. I'm also not sure where you get the impression that I think opinion is solely conveyed through "bad words"? That's only one of my points, and there most definitely are a subset of adjectives and adverbs that are problematic. I might expand on that. I should probably add a paragraph about logical fallacies, too. All that said, I'll go look over some of my previous answers again with this in mind. Bias is always hardest to see in your own writing.
    – Bobson
    May 15, 2019 at 11:52
  • @LangLangC - As for that specific answer you linked, I work in software and it's the very definition of a bug: Code was written. One piece changed. This caused unintended consequences elsewhere which were either not realized, realized and not addressed ("too low a priority"), or realized and considered acceptable/not worth fixing ("WontFix" is still a bug, just one that won't ever be fixed for some reason).
    – Bobson
    May 15, 2019 at 12:03
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    Note that here I do not criticise any of your answers. Merely pointing out the fact that in politics and social sciences the concept of 'opinion' is different, as is demonstrated by us arguing over whether that is even 'true' to beging with or how it is defined. I hold it a fundamental misunderstanding to apply the SO-definition of 'opinion' to social sciences, as too often done on this SE. Here opinion just should be well argued, referenced, based on expert opinion (as per help teexts even) and it's good enough. Even choice of quotes and references is based on our opinions and biases. May 15, 2019 at 14:51
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    @LangLangC - That's fair. It's the same idea as how what a media outlet chooses to report on is just as relevant to its bias as how they do so.
    – Bobson
    May 15, 2019 at 21:30

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