are all well-received and well-answered, but my question Why did those in the recent enrollment surge in US Native American tribes (especially Navaho) not enroll until now? has three close votes for

Questions asking for the internal motivations of people, how specific individuals would behave in hypothetical situations or predictions for future events are off-topic, because answers would be based on speculation and their correctness could not be verified with sources available to the public

This does not apply obviously because I've asked "Why did...?" which is past tense and about something that actually happened and the close reason mentions "hypothetical" and "predictions"

Certainly there are going to be sources available about Native American enrollment in tribes, why they don't, what can be done to encourage them to do so. These may not be popular reading for those focusing on US palace intrigue, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

I wrote there that:

I think the difference here is that the three close voters suspect (without research) that there are no citable, well articulated reasons for this and that not enrolling was for no particularly coherent or documented reason, so nobody should be allowed to post an answer. This is not a good reason to quickly close a question. Instead let's have a little faith in the resourcefulness of the community and see if it turns out that there is in fact a good answer. Thanks!

Is it possible that "I don't know so nobody could know" is happening here, or even "Native Americans probably don't act in rational and collective ways" is happening here?


  1. Why do some "Why don't (group) think that..." type questions do very well and others get neglected and closed? Do folks sometimes just close some because they are inherently less interesting, or because of some "I don't know so nobody else could know" rationalization is in effect?
  2. What could be done to spice this up so that it looks at least a little more like the four highly popular questions I've cited above that to me look like they are just as eligible for the same close reason I've cited, yet escaped that with flying colors? What "secret sauce" is my question missing?

3 Answers 3


The difference is that in the questions that were well received, the group in question is a political party with an ideology, policy positions, and ample targeted polling. In your question, you’re asking about the motivations of individuals, which is the definition of the close reason.

Look at those 4 questions you used as examples: in 2-4, the group is Republican politicians and pundits. Only the first asks about individual Republicans and, while it perhaps should have been closed, opinions of partisans on the US President is one of the best polled topics in the world, so it’s a reasonable exception.

In your question, on the other hand, you’re asking about why individuals did or did not make a personal decision. There is nothing linking these people except having tenuous Native American heritage, and “people who were not associated with a tribe but then later did” is not a category included in polling. We could certainly speculate on why someone might do that and back it up with a few anecdotes, but that’s all it wild be: speculation.

  • 2
    "There is nothing linking these people except having tenuous Native American heritage..." How do you know this to be a fact? Or are you saying that there's nothing in my question that helps potential answer authors to find what links these people? The goal of my question is to look for collective behavior and what does link them together, and that does suggest to me an opportunity for a rewrite if it does get closed, so this is quite a helpful answer. Thanks!
    – uhoh
    May 24, 2021 at 2:57
  • 1
    You’re asking about a group of individuals whose only link is that they have Native American heritage but were not a member of a tribe until now. And you’re asking us to generalize about why they did what they did as individuals. We have a close reason for questions asking about individual motivations for a reason
    – divibisan
    May 24, 2021 at 3:01
  • 1
    my question clearly demonstrates why that specific close reason about future individual motivations doesn't apply to my question about past group behavior The close reason states "...would behave in hypothetical situations or predictions for future events are off-topic..." This is neither. And that's already stated in my question above.
    – uhoh
    May 24, 2021 at 3:17
  • 1
    Read it again: “Questions asking for the internal motivations of people, how specific individuals would behave in hypothetical situations or predictions for future events are off-topic”. There’s an “or” in there - it’s not just about future events. Whether it’s asking why they did this now, or why they didn’t do this in the past, this is a textbook “internal motivations” question as is. But there’s no point in arguing - it’s up to the voting community to decide. You shouldn’t take this personally: these close reasons were chosen for a reason and I think this is a case where they apply
    – divibisan
    May 24, 2021 at 3:21
  • 1
    These are parallel discussions, it's not surprising that the content is similar. You're posting close arguments in both places at the same time for all readers to see, so I'm responding in both places. i.stack.imgur.com/vAFgg.png and i.stack.imgur.com/YlFCd.png I added the original discussion of the problem with closing there as a way to point here to the meta question, and to prevent drive-by or knock-on close votes so as to allow answers to be posted.
    – uhoh
    May 24, 2021 at 3:31
  • I don't understand how it can be claimed that the question attempts to determine the "internal motivations of individuals" when it is asking about how a subset of an ethnic group interacts with a public policy that is specifically based on their ethnicity. The policy itself makes assumptions of what those people will do, and those motivations are not strictly internal.
    – Joe
    May 26, 2021 at 10:32
  • Further, all that needs to be done to resolve the question of speculating regarding the "internal motivations of an individual" is to simply find a statement of an individual saying something about why they changed their mind. Do we really think that no such thing exists anywhere? Or is this rule now expanding to say that we can never talk about how people behave in response to public policy unless there's a statistically significant poll result?
    – Joe
    May 26, 2021 at 10:35
  • 1
    @joe That would be an awful answer! You really think it’s useful or ok to speculate about a whole diverse group of people based on a couple of individual anecdotes?
    – divibisan
    May 26, 2021 at 12:59


The well received questions you cited are all broadly about the left-right divide in the United States. Questions about that provide those answering the opportunity to indulge in discussing their own political identity as well as the identity of people they don't agree with. That also creates a bandwagoning effect where those answering who don't agree with each other also start writing or commenting on answers in a very short period of time, creating a highly active question.

Your question doesn't have a partisan dimension to it as asked, so it doesn't allow people who would answer it an opportunity to say something about themselves and how smart they are compared to people they don't like.

Consider the following thought experiment

Your question could have been phrased as "How did the Biden administration increase the enrollment of Navajo Nation tribe members?"

This would be a use of the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy and presume some additional causality that you probably don't want to presume. But it would shift the apparent subject of the question away from the human beings affected by policy, to being about how Joe Biden affects the policy that affects those people.

Even though the internal motivations of people applying for the benefits would be just as impenetrable, the thinking and actions of the Biden administration would not be viewed as such, and would allow right-wingers the opportunity to say "Well, Joe Biden had nothing to do with it, the real reason is X" and for left wingers to say "Well, Joe Biden did Y, and that's why more people signed up", and we could also have plenty of opportunities for tedious commentary about all of our ideological hobby horses. We also wouldn't care at all about how we know nothing about people signing up for tribal membership; the presumption of action on the part of Joe Biden strips those people of agency and therefore their internal motivations are no longer a question, so are no longer the basis for closing the question.

Now let's take the experiment one step further

Even though our thought experiment above started from cynical observations about how users of Politics Stack Exchange react to partisan questions, it ended with a demonstration that the internal motivations of Navajo Nation members do not actually matter to the answer of the question. When we form the question as "what did Joe Biden do" we also implicitly added an assumption that it is possible for Joe Biden to do something to get prospective Navajo Nation members to change their behavior from what it otherwise would have been.

If we generalize that statement, we can rephrase it as "We assume it is possible to use public policy to get people to change their behavior."

The above is really very uncontroversial; it's the assumption that is the basis of almost everything government does. Yet the question still got closed.

It was wrong to close your question because doing so effectively turns the "internal motivation" rule into a ban on asking any questions related to public policy

We should back away from this interpretation of the rule because it basically makes the entire SE useless for asking any important question about politics.

  • 1
    Your example question is quite different from the one in question here. The question specifically does not ask why people joined the tribe (they believe they already know), but why they didn’t join before. There’s no specific policy they’re asking about, or a specific event. All the reasons why someone might not have joined a tribe are extremely broad and very subjective. If the question was “why have enrollments increased” or simply “what are the costs of being a member of the Navajo nation” without the focus on personal motivations of a subgroup, then it would be ok
    – divibisan
    May 26, 2021 at 13:09
  • 3
    This is an astute observation and rings true with what I've seen and suspected; that folks are closing questions that are simply not of the type they would personally like to answer. Thanks for your thoughtful and candid analysis.
    – uhoh
    May 26, 2021 at 19:57
  • @divibisan it's open; thank you for the edit!
    – uhoh
    May 26, 2021 at 20:03
  • 1
    @uhoh I don't see now this observation is astute, even though it is true. Politics is nothing more than a culturally acceptable form of narcississm.
    – alephzero
    Jun 1, 2021 at 16:55
  • @alephzero astute is a relative term :-)
    – uhoh
    Jun 3, 2021 at 23:17

Simply a matter of who sees those questions and where they see them. Not all users see those questions and some of them get spotted. If a question like that gets spotted and put into the close vote queue there is likely a wider audience that will see it and vote to close.

There have been plenty of examples of a question not getting spotted by those that would close it only to see them get closed shortly after they enter the close vote queue.

  • 2
    "...and where they see them..." suggests inability to be objective, or groupthink; "it's in the close queue so it should be closed", vs "there's no close votes and it's got up votes so shouldn't be closed" Am I interpreting your answer correctly?
    – uhoh
    May 24, 2021 at 0:21
  • You are not, what I am saying is that the users who are voting to close those questions don't see always see all questions on the site and thus are not able to vote on those.
    – Joe W
    May 24, 2021 at 0:36
  • 1
    you mean perhaps something like they check the review queues more regularly (or more comprehensively) than the new questions queue?
    – uhoh
    May 24, 2021 at 0:39
  • No, I mean that they don't see it on the main page for whatever reason but they do see it in the review queue.
    – Joe W
    May 24, 2021 at 1:21
  • 1
    I see, perhaps more like an instability; the first close vote increases the probability of additional close votes. Without the first close vote, the probability of use X seeing it and voting to close it is reduced. Close votes beget close votes. Maybe that's not what you are saying, but it seems to be a logical extension of it. Anyway, thank you for your perspective!
    – uhoh
    May 24, 2021 at 1:28
  • 1
    Yep, I would say that the first close vote does get it more attention.
    – Joe W
    May 24, 2021 at 2:05
  • Uhoh, I view stack exchange during the week. I (usually) never go into it at all during the weekend. On Monday, I go through the HNQ, then about 7 exchanges where I am a regular viewer. It is very possible a question I might choose to VtC get through the site by the time Monday rolls around so that I don't read the question. If it were to come up in a queue, however, I WILL read it, and I WILL take an action. I will actually cringe when I read a question like this one, which basically says "well, these 10 questions were allowed, why not mine?" My thought is, "well if I'd have seen them,
    – CGCampbell
    May 25, 2021 at 15:02
  • I most likely would have VtC them too. I'm not saying it is definitely the case here, but yes, I disagree with more than one of your examples being what I personally consider to be on-topic. (And yes, I understand my views on the topicality are more often than not, more stringent than most others, however, I'm allowed my opinion.) If I were a mod, then I'd be much more in tune with the community consensus than I am as a 'regular individual'
    – CGCampbell
    May 25, 2021 at 15:05
  • @CGCampbell I've often suspected that there are I close, therefore I am folks out there :-) Seriously SE works well because of the adversarial process; creators & destructors, raising & lowering operators, antibodies & antigens, + & - inputs on opamps, etc. Anyway if SE causes cringing then perhaps it's time to further reduce number of days one partakes? To me participating in SE is absolute pure pleasure; posting questions, posting answers, giving helpful, constructive guidance to new users, editing other folks' posts to keep them open and save them from answer-blocking close votes...
    – uhoh
    Jun 2, 2021 at 0:20
  • hmm, I give you my honest opinion, and you tell me " if SE causes cringing then perhaps it's time to further reduce number of days one partakes?" Way to make it personal. I find participating here an enjoyable time as well. However, I choose to take my curation responsibilities to heart as well.
    – CGCampbell
    Jun 2, 2021 at 11:08
  • Uhoh, I would also recommend reading ALL of the answers to politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3934/… and its duplicate marked question. Not everyone agrees editing questions to improve them is the correct thing to do. Disagree with a close vote on a question that isn't yours? Write your own question worded in a more acceptable manner. A question that is yours? Don't take it personally. Step back and figure out WHY more than one person VtC and fix your own wording.
    – CGCampbell
    Jun 2, 2021 at 11:11
  • @CGCampbell we can certainly agree that not everyone agrees to anything!
    – uhoh
    Jun 3, 2021 at 23:19

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