Are we voting by political preference, rather than by quality of answer, as warned for in this area51 post? That includes myself.

I find that there are many controversial posts, with many up- and many downvotes. Such votes appear to be the ones that are most political. Are people downvoting for an objective reason, or because they simply disagree with assertions in the post? Votes are anonymous, so the question is hard to answer directly. For those who have followed the site closely in the past few days, the political leaning of some (but not all) frequent posters is already quite clear.

Below is a selection of posts that have received both upvotes and downvotes. For some of those votes, despite having one or more downvotes, there are no comments. Some posts seem quite well researched, but still somehow opiniated. Does it seem people are downvoting for political disagreement reasons, rather than post quality?

  • I've only voted on one of the answers you link to, and my political affiliations had little to do with my vote.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 21:47
  • 3
    Thinking about it once more, I don't think people vote down good posts for political reasons, but I do think people vote up bad posts because of bad reasons.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 8:56
  • Well, for the last one, the single DV is 100% explained in my comment - I think that opinion of S-G of the UN is completely irrelevant to legality, and therefore makes the answer bad. I don't have a clue if the 2 upvotes are political in nature. Sine 1/2 the answer isn't bad, I am willing to accept that they were on quality.
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 19:50

4 Answers 4


Well, this is the main reason I've proposed a "back it up" rule for answers, most of the answers you linked to read more like opinion pieces than helpful answers.

Obviously, I have no idea how anyone other than me voted, but I do share your concern that Politics is already starting to show signs of diminishing quality. We are not here to argue our positions, Politics.SE is, or at least tries to be, a useful Q&A site. Answers are supposed to help the asker understand whatever it is they are asking about, and are not supposed to be used as a platform for us to promote our individual ideologies.

I can understand the urge to put your opinions to the test and I'm still undecided on whether we need a hard "back it up" rule or not, but I feel the site has little chance of succeeding if we let it fill up with opinion heavy answers (and allow questions that attract opinion heavy answers survive long enough for those answers to appear). We are still in private beta and I'm afraid the site will quickly turn into a circus once we open the doors to everyone.

Of the nine answers you posted, I think at least five would be more appropriate for their respective authors' blogs than for a Stack Exchange site. I don't know if the "back it up" rule will change things dramatically, or even proposing that a dramatic change right now is necessary, but... let's just say that from my point of view the overall quality is (slowly but steadily) decreasing and that I'm pessimistic about the site's fate.

I have absolutely no intention of participating in a site where it's all about winning an argument, I'm only interested in a site where I can learn something new every day, and having to dig through layers and layers of bias isn't particularly helpful. Or useful. Or even interesting.

If the answers are opinion heavy, you can't really blame voters for voting based on their own opinions, what else should they be voting on?


  • 1
    I agree with the back it up rule for answers, especially if the questions are more open ended than we would like to ;) Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 22:22
  • @SvenClement I'm still undecided, but I'm heavily leaning towards having the rule. I think it would be acceptable to lose some good - but unsupported - answers if the rule saves us from a ton of argumentative / opinion heavy answers.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 22:25
  • 1
    I totally agree, and I will support any attempt to enforce such a rule if the community agrees on it! Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 22:42

I'm reluctantly coming down on the side of a "back it up" rule as well.

While at first I both hoped it would be unnecessary and thought it posed the risk of politics.se becoming as uptight as skeptics.se (don't get me wrong, I like Skeptics a lot - I just don't think we need to be quite that strict), I now think it's clear that we do need to police overtly opinionated answers.

Oh, yeah ... to answer the actual question: I'm trying real hard not to let my own opinions influence my voting, and I think I'm pretty much succeeding. It's painful sometimes to downvote an opinionated Q or A that I agree with, but so far I'm battling through it ;-)

I'm also making a point of walking away from the computer for a few minutes before downvoting an opinionated Q or A that I strongly disagree with, then coming back to see whether I still think the downvote is justified per the rules of the site ... which seems to help.


I have also that impression. There are more and more questions asking for arguments for the option the author believe, and to use against other side. That are formulated such as "what are the arguments against" etc.

So the question is already biased, and answers representing other point of view are even more likely to be downvoted.

My promotor have said once that the best theses are those which prove that the initial assumption was wrong.

Maybe it would be good to take rules from the Sceptics.SE, where each answer must have bibliography. This would close the sites for many users, for example me, who have all books from study times in other country and anyway they were non-English :) But it could save the site from dying and closing.

  • 3
    Do you believe that Skeptics.SE users don't vote along political lines?
    – user1873
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 21:00
  • Here's a good question that's literally "what are the arguments against": politics.stackexchange.com/q/14582/10373
    – endolith
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:32

Are people voting along political lines? Probably. There is no way to know for certain, because votes are anonymized even for moderators. There are supposedly automatic detection algorithms that catch vindictive downvoting, but that wouldn't stop people from voting based upon their own political beliefs at randomized intervals to throw off the metrics.

Is this actually a problem? No. It doesn't matter if you get downvoted, or upvoted for a particular question or answer. Your question or answer will still exist, and people can still choose to read it regardless of how far it is down the list of answers. Some of my best questions/answers on Skeptics.SE are the ones that get the most upvotes and downvotes. If you aren't pissing off someone, you aren't asking/answering hard questions.

What do we really have to worry about? Moderators and their tools. Moderators don't suck, regardless of what everyone says. The problem comes when the moderators decide that questions/answers aren't a good fit, independent of the community. They have the ability to close a question (that they may personally not like) with a single vote. They can delete answers that they don't agree with. They can ban users that get too many flags (regardless of whether those flags are deserved).

That isn't the biggest problem. If the community relies on the judgement of moderators too much, they end up over working the moderators. With that being said, don't flag content that you find offensive/abusive. Clean it up yourself. Vote to close if you cannot get responses from an OP regarding clarification of what they are asking. Don't just lurk. If you like sourced questions and answers, upvote those. If you don't like gentle ribbing in answers, remove it or downvote it. If you hate opinions, downvote those. In the end, you get the community you deserve.

  • 2
    -1, because "Moderators don't suck" is an opinion not backed with facts <g>
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 14:45
  • @DVK, suckiness is like taste, it is opinion based. Moderators clearly can suck, I just choose to believe that they don't suck because of vindictiveness but because of ineptitude.
    – user1873
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 15:09
  • Hey! I resemble that remark! Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 20:46
  • 1
    "Is this actually a problem?" I think, yes, it can be. On other SE sites you do see this at times (though not all that often), when the most popular answer gets 50+ votes but is actually factually incorrect.
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 20:19
  • 2
    @DA, it happens more often then you think. Skeptics.SE has numerous examples.
    – user1873
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 21:02

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