This question, currently closed for being 'opinion' based, is up for a re-open vote.

To my mind, 'opinion-based' means that any answer to the question must be subjective in nature.

This question, however, isn't asking for subjective answers - it's asking for answers that describe objectively observed phenomena. There may be a lack of empirical evidence or data to answer the question but insofar as political science, as a discipline, is on-topic here it seems to stand to reason that theory-informed answers are not reasonably considered 'opinion.'

Is there an established community standard for what 'opinion' is vs. 'theory?' Am I misunderstanding the purpose of PSE and theory-informed political science is actually off-topic here?

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    Popularity is an opinion poll and you want people to explain why people have the opinion they have?
    – Joe W
    Jul 15, 2021 at 17:13
  • Explaining why preferences pervade in large groups of people is literally the core of much political science. So, yes. It's not like this stuff isn't studied - at great length and cost. Trying to understand the drivers of public opinion is, outside academia, also of central importance to the [work done by political strategists][1]. I'm not saying that empirically certain answers are necessarily available - but there is information stronger than "well I think x." [1]:nytimes.com/2021/06/06/us/politics/democrats-2020-election.html Jul 15, 2021 at 17:17
  • That doesn't make it on topic for this site though.
    – Joe W
    Jul 15, 2021 at 17:29
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    Hence why I'm asking a meta- question about it. Jul 15, 2021 at 17:30
  • And it is also why I am making a comment. I don't have enough for an answer but I am still allowed to provide feedback.
    – Joe W
    Jul 15, 2021 at 17:44
  • Sure, I just don't understand what point you were trying to make in your prior. Jul 15, 2021 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


Is there an established community standard for what 'opinion' is vs. 'theory?'

No, even whether a question is primarily opinion-based (POB) can be subjective. Of course, in some cases a question may be very clearly opinion-based. In the question that you cite, I think you can make both arguments. Let's do that to see what might drive close-voters and voters to reopen.

The question body ends with the following question:

Why is Biden's approval so polarized while certain people are able to escape polarization at least partly, even at the federal level?

One the one hand, you could say that it's opinion-based because it's hard to answer based on knowledge that's commonly available. To answer the question probably requires original research. Another view might be that while it's okay to ask for specific polling results, some polling research might be inherently flawed because of the way the research might be conducted. See for example Yes Prime Minister's bit on leading questions in polling.

On the other hand, you could say that the popularity of the US president is such a big subject that there is enough research available to answer the question without original research. And while some studies may be flawed, there could be more studies on the same subject which may confirm of dispute the findings of other studies.

Whether the reasoning toward closing as POB prevails over the reasoning to keep a question depends very much on the question itself. For now, we let our users decide. There are some limitations on closing and reopening, I think a user with the privilege can vote to close once and vote to reopen once (not sure about the exact rules), so it will settle somewhere eventually.

If you think a closed question should be reopened or an open question should be closed then the easiest thing to do is to vote for that action. Additionally, if you think it's not clear why your action is the right one then it's helpful to add a comment under the question explaining the reason for your action. If that doesn't work you could start a discussion about the specific question here on meta. Of course starting a whole meta discussion for a single question is quite a lot of work, but it's possible if you feel strongly about it.

Unfortunately, it's very hard to rule on the general case of POB (i.e. this meta question) because the circumstances vary from question to question.

  • Thank you for the NOR link. I didn't know that about Wikipedia, but it does explain the concept very well. (Also: Dat Yes Prime Minister link tho. XD) Am I correct that there isn't a codified definition of opinion anywhere, either? This is implied by your opening portion, but not made explicit. Jul 15, 2021 at 18:29
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    @WilliamWalkerIII there are a few questions about it but I doubt there's a clear way of deciding POB vs non-POB. How does “Primarily Opinion-Based” work on this site? and How do you determine a “primarily opinion based” question. As I said, in some cases it is clearly POB, then it's easy to close and it won't get reopened.
    – JJJ Mod
    Jul 15, 2021 at 18:32
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    Yes, a user can vote once to close and once to open which is done to prevent closure wars. Moderators and employees have no such limitations as far as I am aware
    – Joe W
    Jul 15, 2021 at 18:36

For what's that worth, I didn't vote to close, but I've down-voted the question due to the poorly presented motivation:

Biden is a highly polarizing figure despite some of his efforts not to be. Obama for example had a far more volatile approval, but he was the last president to have such an elastic approval rating. It is approve by 9 on 538, which past approval vs election correlations show is very similar to Biden's margin in the popular vote.

Supposedly there's some real motivation in there, and it might be a legitimate question, but I can't make heads or tails out of it... Someone linked in a comment to Gallup which paints this picture:

enter image description here

Presumably the question might be why Biden is less popular than Obama was at the beginning of his term... or something like that, in which case it should be rephrased, clarified.

Also note that the accepted answer starts with "This is my opinion." So that may have contributed to the close-votes.

As written, it's unclear (to me) if the question can be answered with facts...

  • If you can’t make heads of tails of it you can always write a comment and/or VTC it as needs details or clarity. Jul 25, 2021 at 21:02

Just my 2¢...

Speculative analysis is informed opinion: opinion based in solid theory, with a certain amount of direct or tangential evidence that bears on it, and with an openness to outcomes according to reason. I'm fond of speculative analysis, which I think is the only place where we can come to understanding and consensus; I don't have much use for mere opinion.

I saw your question when it was originally posted, and I decided not to give an answer because I couldn't find the right ground for speculative analysis. Public opinion isn't rational or analytical, and I've seen good arguments that it isn't even really relevant to the performance of political leaders. I could obviously have laid out a few of the conditioning factors — notably the nationalistic turn of the far Right, and the increasing use of partisan propaganda in US society — but that would hardly answer the question in an informed and sophisticated manner. There wasn't much I could do with this that wouldn't reduce to 'mere' opinion.

  • To be clear the original question wasn't mine, I was just confused by how the question was being treated. Jul 16, 2021 at 13:27
  • @WilliamWalkerIII: sorry! lazy assumption on my part. Jul 16, 2021 at 13:34
  • No worries at all! Bayesian thinking supports the assumption. Jul 16, 2021 at 13:35

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