I have compiled some stats concerning a few regular contributors to the site and have discovered a huge variation in the frequency with which they up-vote, and also down-vote other's contributions. And the ratio between the two also seems revealing.

The exercise results from my feeling for some time that certain contributors make, to what seems to me, excessive use of the downvote - with insufficient consideration for its potential to a)demoralise and b)skew the statistical results.

It is not clear to me why people zealously down-vote - but I suspect, in extreme cases, it says more about them than it does about the material they are voting on.

In my own case, over more than 8 years I have only cast 2,999 up-votes - by most standards this is low. Clearly, alongside most people, I am being conservative in the use of the vote. However I have only downvoted on 71 occasions, and I try and always make a point of explaining why I have done so.

I note that John Lawler, has seen fit only to downvote on 62 occasions - while delivering nearly 7,000 up-votes. Given his status as a linguistics professor that seems to me to say a lot.

But consider some of these statistics:

Contributor Up-votes Down-votes Joined
1 1,677 134 11yrs 9 mths
2 2,724 1,407 11yrs 6mths
3 8,586 4,821 11yrs
4 4,239 2,098 9yrs
5 21,831 3,608 9yrs

And the last one really did puzzle me. That person, over the space of 11 years has awarded 3,647 up-votes but no fewer than 15,800 down-votes. Over 11 years - that averages about 4 a day! I am wondering on how many of those 15,800 occasions the subject was given a word of explanation?

Another has delivered over 25,000 down votes, but over 23,000 up-votes. Compared to John Lawler's 64 that is out of all proportion and surely distorts the whole scoring process. Is it that I am down-voting too few or these others too many?

Do the moderators ever monitor the extent to which people are using the up and down voting facility? It would seem worthwhile to do so, if only to try and establish some consistency among users.

  • 1
    I would focus on why feedback in the form of comments is more useful to authors and askers alike than anonymous downvotes. On EL&U I see plenty of helpful comments on how to improve a post, or why a post is off-topic. It's not all bad.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 6:50
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA People need to learn to stand by the actions they take and, if necessary defend them. I see no case for anonymity. If people cannot resist being spiteful, they need to talk to someone, not be encouraged in their anti-social incontinence. It is only a few people doing this. In your own case your ratio of downs to ups is only 16.5% - perfectly reasonable. But once that goes over 50% it tells me that someone has a problem And in one notable case it is 433%.
    – WS2
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 8:49
  • @Mari-LouA Do you remember Barry England? Sadly we haven't heard from him for many years and one fears the worst. But Barry - a man of consiserable stature and erudition - in all his time on the site, only ever down-voted on 26 occasions!
    – WS2
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 9:01
  • @Mari-LouA Something very odd appears to be the case. The person I've identified whose activity profile states has committed over 15,000 down-votes, does not appear to have been deducted any single point penalties for such down-voting. In your experience, is that something that can happen?
    – WS2
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 14:21
  • I'm actually surprised that I downvoted that much. Unexplained and unsourced down votes seem to contain remarkably little information and I've rarely seen good reasons for them that many others haven't seen first, and marked, making anything from me redundant. Other than that, this seems a fair representation of my habits. Others have other habits, of course. Though if this "says a lot," I am unaware of what it is, and how it relates to my former professoring. Commented May 25, 2022 at 14:49
  • 1
    If a downvoted post gets deleted then the 2 points deducted are restored to the downvoter. I don't know what happens when a deleted post is undeleted, maybe the downvoter(s) loses their points again. However, once someone reaches >15K rep, losing 6 or 10 points barely makes a dent.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 16:14
  • 2
    Downvotes on questions do not deduct reputation from the voter, only downvotes on answers. Frankly, if we're going to consider persecuting people for their voting habits, we should be targeting the people with the privilege to vote who don't use it, not downvoters. We should strive to be somewhat correlated in our voting, so instead of counting DVs, it might be more interesting to alert a user privately when their voting tendency is very out of sync with the community for particular posts or topics.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 17:51
  • 1
    @JohnLawler Your voting pattern suggests to me a man of reason, and a teacher's instinct to encourage. Hence my comment.
    – WS2
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 18:32
  • @ColleenV I was not considering persecution - but trying to prevent it taking place. For that is what four down-votes a day for eleven years sounds like to me. I like the idea of "correlation" though., bearing in mind that a constructive comment can be worth far more than an anonymous downvote.
    – WS2
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 18:36
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA It is a one point deduction for a downvote (though it deducts two points from the victim). I tested it out on Mr Four-per-day, and I got deducted one. But I hadn't realised that there was no deduction on voters where Questions are concerned. So it seems that his are almost all on questions, though I haven't checked his record over 11 years.
    – WS2
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 18:43
  • Veiled insults at users who are given only shallow anonymity does not adhere to the code of conduct. The users in question can easily identify themselves from the details, and take offence directly; anybody else who cared to know is able to determine whose personality traits this post is lambasting. Please remove the insults and personal attacks, and keep it to using numbers as examples of a general behaviour.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 21:57
  • @Nij If what I have said or implied is in any sense in error, or misleading, I would without hesitation take it down. But reporting as I have done, would seem to me entirely in accordance with the robust character of the site. If someone is routinely over many years delivering an average of 4 downvotes a day, it is a matter which in my view should, at least, be raised for discussion. The person concerned is perfectly at liberty to defend his or herself, as we all have to do from time to time on EL&U.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 7:37
  • That's not how Stack Exchange works. Talking about the behaviour in general is fine, but the person is off limits. That you have to defend doing it is to acknowledge it happened.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 9:06
  • @Nij Your time might have been better employed detecting the grammatical error I left behind in that comment.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 12:20
  • @WS2 I agree that there should be some type of calibration, otherwise we come off as an uncultured mob. Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 19:17

3 Answers 3


Do the moderators ever monitor the extent to which people are using the up and down voting facility?

No, of course not. And rightly so. If someone wants to cast fewer than 100 downvotes in 12 years that is their prerogative. If someone wants to maintain some semblance of standard by downvoting everything that blights their vision, that is their prerogative too.

  • Why should it be all about prerogative? The alacrity that some are using the down-vote would seem to me to be devoid of any sense of usefulness. Someone who, in 11 years has used the downvote over 15,000 times is doing almost 4 a day - on average. Why? Is it the sense of power that they experience, a bad night, toothache, or what?
    – WS2
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 21:27
  • 10
    Would you like it if a moderator pinged you to say "Hi, WS2, we were wondering why you haven't downvoted more low-quality answers and questions. Downvoting sends a clear message about the minimum standards that EL&U strives for"? Imagine being pinged by a moderator because you haven't upvoted any post in four months? What's it got to do with them? When and how I choose to cast a vote is my business.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 21:31
  • Well it's not entirely your business. The voting system needs to be designed to produce an objective in terms of the quality of questions and answers. Given the huge disparities in the use of voting from person to person, it would seem to me to be an entirely subjective exercise - saying more about the awarders than it does the awardees of the votes. Though I should add that your huge level of up-votes surely indicates a generous mind.
    – WS2
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 21:45
  • 8
    @WS2 Nah. The voting system knows that people use it and one of the things that we simply can't do is control how people use their votes. Our expectations (as the company running the site) is that community members use votes to signal the quality (or lack of quality) of the posts as they see fit and within the established limits we have built into the system (e.g. max votes per day). The only other expectation is that votes can't be targeted at specific users - this is considered vote fraud and it is something we request moderators bring to our attention. :)
    – Catija
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 21:49
  • 9
    Expecting any real unity in how frequently to vote is not possible. A vote is a simple action. It has a myriad of reasons and to try and interpret them is nigh impossible. While I respect your attempt to establish rules, the reality is, there's no way to know why someone is voting and it's generally better for people to accept that individual votes happen and not dwell too much on what it might mean unless a number of votes is showing signal - so, while a single downvote might mean any number of things, several will generally indicate the post has issues that need to be addressed.
    – Catija
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 21:52
  • @Catija When I see that someone has, over 11 years issued an average of 4 down-votes a day - and only 1 up-vote - it suggests to me that it is them that potentially has "issues", not their victims. I also believe that a down-vote should call for an obligatory explanation. Often people have downvoted me and I haven't had the slightest idea why. What on earth is the use of that?
    – WS2
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 21:55
  • 7
    @WS2 I think there are several ways to interpret it - it could mean that the voter has higher expectations than other users on the site... and that's not impossible... It could also mean that a lot of the content posted here isn't meeting the site's quality expectations (and that one user just happens to be quite active)... if there were but a single person casting downvotes, that might seem concerning - but your question indicates that it's not... that said there's no easy way to know whether it's the voter who's being harsh or the posters who are failing to keep content quality high. :)
    – Catija
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 22:08
  • 7
    People have asked us for years to require a reason for downvoting. And it's not something we have any plans to do. It's not up to the voter to explain their choice to vote. Would you want to discredit an upvote when the person said "I just like the picture in this but didn't actually read the content itself to judge the validity"? The reason people tend to want to discredit downvotes is that they are uncomfortable... and I understand and share that feeling... but I do not advocate that everyone be required to cough up an explanation in order to vote on a post.
    – Catija
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 22:09
  • @Catija But it is courteous, if you downvote someone - just to add a word as to why - isn't it? There is nothing more hideous than the drive-by shooter who just fires off willy-nilly. Courtesy is something that ought to be encouraged.
    – WS2
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 6:22
  • 10
    No, that is not "courteous". In fact, commenting on votes is explicitly discouraged. If you want to leave a comment suggesting improvements to the post, you can always do so freely, but it should not be connected to any type of vote, since votes are anonymous. I often see this saw repeated about a "drive-by downvoter", but it's ridiculous, because all votes are "drive-by". Voting is meant to be a completely frictionless action by design, seeing as how it's merely someone expressing their subjective opinion about the quality, correctness, and/or interestingness of a particular post. Commented May 25, 2022 at 6:31
  • 1
    Users also downvote high-quality, researched and supported posts too. Downvotes do not necessarily equate that content is substandard. LQQs and LQAs are easily identifiable. It's the DV on acceptable posts that is annoying, frustrating, and especially bizarre when there is no feedback in the comments. Yet invariably, a supported answer or researched question will attract one or two downvotes because...?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 6:39
  • @Mari-LouA Well - if it is an alternative to kicking the cat, Mari-Lou, perhaps in defence of cats, we should accept it.
    – WS2
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 6:45

At least on the answer side of the ledger, the point of an upvoting/downvoting system of the sort that Stack Exchange sites use is to provide a mechanism for creating community-based separation between perceived good/useful answers and prceived bad/useless ones. Some voters gravitate toward advancing that separation by upvoting good/useful posts, while others gravitate toward accomplishing the same result by downvoting bad/useless posts. And undoubtedly some site participants double their impact by upvoting favored and downvoting unfavored ones beneath a single question.

That site participants' voting tendencies vary widely strikes me as entirely unsurprising. Whether encouraging good efforts with upvotes is ultimately more valuable to the site than discouraging bad efforts with downvotes—and indeed whether upvotes and downvotes have much substantive effect on the overall quality of submissions to this site—is a matter for conjecture.

I'm inclined to think that EL&U is better served by deleting truly bad answers than by downvoting them and leaving them to hang in chains at the bottom of a page of answers—and that anything that isn't truly bad doesn't deserve to be downvoted. But others disagree—and I can hardly deny the numerical fact that downvoting serves the purpose of separating good from bad as effectively as upvoting does. An answer with a net vote of +1 is as far ahead of one with a net vote of –3 as an answer with a net vote of +4 is ahead of one with a net vote of 0.

By some gigantic margin, the most common voting option that EL&U participants who are entitled to vote choose is "abstain." Almost all of us decline to vote one way or the other on the vast majority of questions and answers that we see on this site. So what impels us to vote in the tiny minority of cases where we actually do? I suspect that for most voters it isn't a deeply rational process. Something about a particular question or answer triggers a sense of sympathy or admiration or agreement or annoyance or disapproval or disagreement, and we click the button. But usually we don't.

So any discussion of upvoting and downvoting necessarily focuses on the tip of the tip of the tip of a huge iceberg of abstentions. And unless the people with disproportionately large upvote totals and the people with disproportionately large downvote totals are racking up their totals while voting on the same questions and answers, I see no reason to suppose that they fundamentally disagree about which answers are good and which answers are bad.

  • I am beginning to think that the instance I am looking at, of the person who is shown to have clocked up over 15,000 downvotes in 11 years, reflects some kind of error. Because the downvotes are not showing up in the reputation. Do you know of any way of reporting this? I don't want to mention the person by name as I have been critical of their voting pattern - and if it is due to an error in reporting it would be unfair.
    – WS2
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 8:40
  • @WS2 IIRC down votes on questions do not incur rep loss, and the rep lost on down voting answers are regained once the voted post is deleted.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 12:17
  • 3
    I, at least, am so happy to see some evidence of rational thinking and clear writing in some questions that I'm apt to upvote them out of sheer relief, even if the question is trivial. Commented May 26, 2022 at 17:37
  • 5
    @WS2 You can't see when other people lose rep due to downvoting answers (to prevent arguments about who downvoted whose post: it's called a private rep event; losing 100 rep from a spam/rude deletion is also private for example). And a downvoter also gets that 1 rep back if the downvoted answer is deleted, plus downvoting questions is free, so the actual impact of downvoting a lot might not be as much as you would expect.
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 22:48
  • @WS2 I'm in agreement with your position on excessive downvoting, but in your original post you said that the "last one" cast 15,800 downvotes. It certainly wasn't the "last one" on the chart. Where did the "last one" come from?
    – Zan700
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 21:03
  • @Zan700 No. I didn't put that one in the chart - but I assure you that it exists. At least the individual's activity record shows that number.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 14, 2022 at 22:25

Moderators monitor the voting behavior of only those users who are suspected of abusing their voting privilege, with targeted voting, sock puppetry and the like.

Users are free to be lavish or frugal with their votes within the prescribed daily or weekly limits.

There is no system to 'establish' said consistency of voting and there should not be, in my opinion, any pressure on the individual users on how often to vote.

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