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I have noticed a pattern in the downvotes that I receive. Often times I receive downvotes on answers that I give to very basic and easy-to-answer questions--even when the answer is correct. The most recent example is this question. This is especially true when the question has close votes. Is there a tendency or a propensity to down-vote answers to basic or low-quality questions? Is this poor voting behavior, or is this acceptable practice on the SE network?

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    That particular downvote could be because your answer seems to directly conflict with tchrist's–he says there's no indirect object in the asker's sentence; you say there is. Because I can only resolve such quandaries by appeals to my grammar cat who went AWOL this evening, I abstained from voting on anything there. – Zairja Oct 17 '12 at 2:32
  • A downvote -should- be one thing, but often enough it is just an 'I don't like it' vote for whatever reason good or irrelevant. One downvote doesn't make a pattern though. – Mitch Oct 17 '12 at 13:18
  • @Mitch Indeed. That is definitely behavior that I myself will avoid. Where did I say that this was only based on one down-vote? – Ataraxia Oct 17 '12 at 13:21
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    You didn't explicitly say it was one example. In fact you claim many. I just personally don't see any examples and your example link doesn't fit the pattern for me. So I don't see -any- data to support your theory, even though it is plausible. That is (meta) evidence that your theory is shadow-boxing. – Mitch Oct 17 '12 at 13:31
  • This question doesn't make sense to me. I have no opinion on whether OP's answer in the linked question is "correct" or not, but clearly it directly contradicts tchrist's answer there. So given it's only one downvote, and given OP hasn't had any downvotes on other questions, I think @Mitch has the right of it - OP's theory is shadow-boxing. – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '12 at 2:53
  • @FumbleFingers this question was posted well before tchrist answered. – Ataraxia Oct 18 '12 at 3:14
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    @phoenixheart6: That's irrelevant. My point is it's by no means obvious your answer there is unarguably "correct". I see nothing to suggest that the downvote (the only one I could see when I checked yesterday) was evidence of "poor voting behaviour" or anything else we should be concerned about. – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '12 at 11:08
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It is not uncommon for users to downvote the question and all answers when they vote to close a question. This is theoretically because high rep users should know better than to answer off-topic (etc) questions. However, at 376 rep, I wouldn't consider you to be a high rep user (yet).

It could be because the downvoter thought you shouldn't have answered the question, but it could also be that the downvoter thought it wasn't a good answer. Since they didn't leave a comment, we can't know for sure.

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    I suspected something like this, that it was to dissuade users from reaping the rep benefits of answering an easy question. But isn't down-vote meant to indicate a low quality answer? No vote at all seems more appropriate. – Ataraxia Oct 16 '12 at 22:57
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    @phoenixheart6 It is intended to dissuade high rep users. No vote at all for lower rep users would seem appropriate to me, unless the answer needed improvement. – Kit Z. Fox Oct 16 '12 at 23:02
  • "Since they didn't leave a comment, we can't know for sure.": Universal truth. Applies to far more down votes than not, in any case. – Kris Oct 18 '12 at 11:16
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There have been occasions when I have (not on this site, but on others) downvoted somebody's answer to an obviously bad question. I usually explain why, when I do this. People who ask bad questions should be encouraged to reword them or ask better questions, not rewarded with an upvote and an answer. I see too many examples of people cynically answering bad questions with bland answers just in hope of getting the rep for an answer (not that I'm suggesting you do this, but it may explain other's motives for voting you down).

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    Perhaps. However, I cannot endorse such a down voting practice. Not at all. Your comment, appropriately worded, should serve better. – Kris Oct 18 '12 at 11:18
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I downvote correct answers to low-quality and off-topic questions in some circumstances.

In general, I try to base my votes on the tooltip explanation: upvotes are for useful answers, downvotes are for answers that are not useful or that are in some way more harmful than helpful.

It’s hard to write a useful answer to a bad question. (In fact, I would say that’s the best way to define bad questions.) But it’s not impossible. A useful answer to a bad question should not be downvoted. Ideally, the question can be edited to improve it or make it on-topic.

I don’t think all correct answers are useful, though. Here are some circumstances where I might downvote a correct but unimpressive answer to a low-quality, off-topic question:

  • a question that is closed for being clearly general reference gets an answer that is just a block quote from one of the major free online dictionaries. It's not useful to replicate a dictionary on this site. We aren't professional lexicographers: a real dictionary is a more useful resource than this site for answering basic questions about pronunciation, etymology, or meaning, and answers that copy this information piecemeal will just end up distracting or wasting the time of people who comes across them as search results.

  • a single word request question that is closed for being overly vague and not giving enough information about how the word will be used gets an answer suggesting a word that is technically correct, or correct under one interpretation of the question, but that (in my opinion) doesn’t have the right connotations, is incorrect under another plausible interpretation of the question, or belongs to the wrong register of the language. This is definitely more subjective. I’m more likely to downvote an answer like this if there are many other answers to the question, since I think that in this situation votes of any kind generally help to sort answers by usefulness.

Different people vote in different ways, and that's fine. The Stack Exchange system is set up to work with a certain level of disagreement. This is the way I vote, but I only can vote once per post, so if enough other people disagree with me, the answer may end up with a positive score. I do like to leave a comment so that even if there is a disagreement, people will at least know what it is about.

I hope this answer helped you understand why some people might downvote a correct answer to a question that is basic and off-topic.

Here are some other relevant posts, some pertaining to ELU specifically and others to other network sites:

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    The downvote tool tip says NOTHING about being harmful. If you honestly think that an answer should not be there because the question is poor, it's better to comment and tell the user "hey, this question really doesn't fit our site and by answering it, you're encouraging this sort of question because if they can get answers, they'll keep asking questions without trying to improve them to fit site standards"... downvotes are not punishments for trying to help, particularly not for lower-rep users. They should only be used on bad answers. – Catija Aug 12 '16 at 15:32
  • You are, of course, free to vote as you please but I think that your justification is flawed. – Catija Aug 12 '16 at 15:33
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    @Catija, One way in which such answers are harmful, and thus should be downvoted, is that they can block the "Roomba" from automatically deleting cr*p questions. – Brock Adams Aug 12 '16 at 19:15
  • @BrockAdams Only if they get upvoted first. – Catija Aug 12 '16 at 19:18
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    @Catija, depends on the scenario. In most cases, the mere presence of the answer blocks the Roomba, so comment to educate the answerer, and downvote repeat offenders. – Brock Adams Aug 12 '16 at 19:21
  • @BrockAdams How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean? What are the criteria for deletion? - Closed questions are different from low quality questions for Roomba purposes. Closed (not as duplicate) questions can be deleted even though they have answers, so long as the answers aren't up-voted. – ColleenV parted ways Aug 12 '16 at 19:51
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    I think that folks underestimate the damage that low quality content does by clogging up search results, so +1 for mentioning that. If the relevant results are filled with pages of things that aren't useful and I have to sort by votes instead, it really makes it difficult/tedious to find what I'm looking for. If I don't find what I'm looking for, it's difficult to be confident that there really isn't a post on the site that might be useful. – ColleenV parted ways Aug 12 '16 at 20:04
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I have noticed this quite a few times.

In my early days on ELU, I was advised by one member that when the question is voted to close, and patently "close-worthy," you better not answer it. If you do, others may down vote your answer for just that reason.

I believe this is not a rule on ELU. Nor is it a convention that everyone here follows. However, it is true that people do so.

  • How can a member know if a question is voted to close? I can tell if a question may not be popular — no one answers, but in the process of being closed? – Mari-Lou A Jun 9 '13 at 10:32
  • @Mari-LouA You can check out the links under the question share edit close flag -- close(1) suggests one close vote already exists. Also, those familiar with the FAQ may be able to tell if a question is close-worthy. – Kris Jun 10 '13 at 5:31
  • Thank you, Kris. After reading your answer I did look more attentively and saw that indeed those links do appear underneath. I hadn't paid any attention before. I think with experience users will know whether a question is doomed, but the marker is helpful for those questions which leave you in doubt. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '13 at 5:43
  • @Kris: I joined a different SE site to check, and the "close" link is not available when I don't have the necessary rep for casting close votes. So a sufficiently low-rep user would not be able to see any existing close votes and therefore is likely to write an answer, unaware of the imminent closure. That would be a (fringe) argument against the downvoting of answers, as not every answerer would have been aware of it at the time. (I tested by joining Anime.SE, and confirmed on Meta.Anime.SE that close votes actually are used on the site since there is discussion on the topic of close votes) – Flater Sep 5 '17 at 13:26
  • @Flater Good point. Yes, certain things are visible only to those with the required privileges, which slipped my mind when I was answering Mary. – Kris Sep 11 '17 at 10:23

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