A number of answers lately have been flagged as "very low quality" or "not an answer". When clearing the flags, most (if not all) of the answers were at a "0" score with no upvotes and no downvotes.

I've noticed this here for a while, but lately it has become many more users (ranging from newer ones to "seasoned" ones).

If you see an answer that is bad enough to flag, why aren't you downvoting it?

  • In addtion to other answers: I feel it is easier to downvote an answer with positive votes, as compared to downvoting an answer into negative rating. Why people don't flag instead of downvote I don't know.
    – kontur
    Dec 10, 2012 at 14:31

7 Answers 7


I recognise I rarely downvote, mainly because I usually try to comment instead, specially when it's new users (this is the ideal situation, but I don't always comment either).

It just feels very disencouraging... I wouldn't want those people to leave and never come back because they didn't read the FAQ or are not familiar with the kind of questions being asked here. For me, votes are an award. Bad question = no awards.

My first question in stack exchange was not the best fit, but I received constructive criticism and edited it accordingly. But once a downvote is cast, how many people go back after the edit and re-vote? In my perception, a negative vote means the question is very bad / useless / should be deleted.

  • 1
    Can't downvoting be reversed just like upvoting? That can encourage users to reformulate and correct the questions, so the downvote gets removed. Nov 24, 2012 at 2:13
  • 3
    People may not go back after an edit and re-vote, but any new viewers are likely to up-vote the improved post. Up-votes are +10 whereas down-votes are -2. If a down-vote causes an edit that later results in an up-vote, the net effect is heavily weighted towards positive net rep. However, if you flag a post and it gets deleted, there is no ability for the poster to recover from the "loss". They can't comment and ask "why?", all they can do is edit and flag for undelete (assuming they already know they can do this). Flagging is much more "serious" than voting.
    – Farray
    Nov 27, 2012 at 6:38

Downvotes aren't constructive to me. To me, they're best used for bad/wrong answers. It is often said that "there are no bad questions," but it should never said that "there are no bad answers."

I'm most likely to downvote a question when I can tell that someone knows how SE works and is just gaming the system to get something for nothing. But otherwise, I don't like to downvote for reasons that yisela and plainclothes mentioned.

  • 2
    +1 for "I'm most likely to downvote a question when I can tell that someone knows how SE works" - seems fair to penalise people who are clearly being lazy, seems unfair to penalise people for simply not yet knowing the ropes and not yet knowing how we're different to a forum. I don't downvote often, but when I do, it's usually "Now you wouldn't do that on the SE site you use most often, so why are you doing that here?" Nov 18, 2012 at 18:37

A downvote does seem much harsher than a flag. Kind of like putting their name on the board instead of smacking their wrist with a wooden ruler.

  • 2
    I'm curious about the downvote seeming harsher than a flag. Downvotes can be reversed (if the post is edited) or offset (if someone else upvotes). If a poor-quality/not-an-answer flag is serious enough to be actioned, the offending post is generally removed completely. New users don't appear to be any more agreeable to their content being deleted than downvoted. And as mentioned in comment on Yisela's answer, if their post is deleted they are not likely to edit it or learn what went wrong. Feelings aside, downvoting is the lower-impact activity.
    – Farray
    Nov 27, 2012 at 6:44
  • 1
    I agree completely. I'm just pointing out one of those odd little psychological things non-cylons tend to get caught up in. Personally, I've never flagged a post. I reserve my downvotes for the really bad ones. Nov 27, 2012 at 17:11

yeah, I very rarely downvote (three out of over 1600 here, nine out of over 1600 on Writers). It's got to be for a post which is egregiously bad, deliberately lazy, or really stupid, and frankly, we just don't have that many bad posts here.

ETA: I prefer to leave a comment under a poor answer asking for detail or clarification first, to give the person a chance to fix the problem. If the poster either doesn't edit the post or upholds the point, then I might downvote.


I downvote and upvote. I don't think I've ever flagged something on here. To me coming from other forums a flag represents not a poor answer but an inappropriate answer/comment such as spam or harassment.


I forget sometimes.

Many of my down votes are counteracted by up votes just because it's someone's first answer or question. So I stopped paying attention and tend to up vote good questions far, far, far more than I down vote anything.

I'd downvote every single question like this.... How can I create a coffee cream effect with Photoshop?

But someone up votes them.

Google apparently has stopped functioning.

Added Dec 2, 2012....

See I down vote questions which show absolutely no research on the part of the questioner. And I mean no research, not even a simple Google search. What happens? Those questions are then subsequently up voted by someone. I assume simply because the user is a new user. Therefore... down voting does absolutely nothing on this site except waste the down-voter's time.

  • 3
    Now you have me curious. Why would you downvote that question? I'd just ignore it (as I did until I saw you called attention to it). Nov 27, 2012 at 12:09
  • I down voted it to counter act the up vote. But I feel a question which simply asks "How do I do this?" Showing absolutely no effort is a low quality question.
    – Scott
    Nov 27, 2012 at 18:06

I do downvote. As per the downvote button labels, whenever I feel:

  • "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear and not useful"
  • "This answer is not useful"

As per these notes, I see it as specific to the question and not a judgement on the user who wrote it.

I always try to leave a comment, and I downvote anything I flag for deletion (unless I forget).

I don't really worry about the demotivating effect on new users, after all I think I'm one of the heaviest downvoters and even then I vote about 10 up to every 1 down.

And as Farray says in a comment on another answer "...any new viewers are likely to up-vote the improved post. Up-votes are +10 whereas down-votes are -2. If a down-vote causes an edit that later results in an up-vote, the net effect is heavily weighted towards positive net rep."

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