From time to time you encounter a meaning request, and provide a word which is obviously directly relevent.

You reference your definition, provide a sample phrase etc. Yet someone still downvotes your answer.

For clarification I am referring to questions here that are well formed.

My question is, does someone need a valid objective reason to downvote an answer, or can they do it in isolation, simply because they feel like clicking the down button in front of them?

I have read this which discusses the cases of flagrant abusive downvoting.

I've also read this on tactical downvoting which references the difficulty in proving a down vote was tactical.

What I havent been able to glean, is if it is unacceptble for someone to downvote a post without an objectively good cause, or if they can just simply say "i didn't like it", in which case I will just ignore these instances.

They aren't all that frequent maybe a couple of times a day, and thankfully the upvotes are so weighted that your net gain from answering a question well, even with dimwitted down votes is still positive.

But my question is, is it OK for someone to downvote a question without an objectively good reason for doing so? If it is not, should I continue to do what I just did and flag the question, with a comment along the lines of "there is no objective reason to downvote this question" can you investigate.

I am conscious of the fact moderators are busy and I don't want to be wasting their time, but at the same time, It seems entirely perverse that there are some individuals going about down voting questions with zero objective justification.

  • 1
    Short answer is downvoting is a privilege, and while there is some guidance on when one might downvote, there is no law. People can spend their downvotes as they wish. The idea is that no single set of rules can capture all the real and why one answer might be better or worse than another, which is why we recruit people to help rank them. The mechanism by which this is achieved is voting, and therefore there aren't and cannot be any absolute constraints on how those can be used. A person owns his votes. Having said that, the best advice is: don't sweat a DV too much (if u get 5 DVs OTOH...).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:17
  • There are instances which are as black and white, as someone asking what is 2+2 and you reply 4, and you still receive a DV. I am more concerned with the principle here. I do not beleive people do 'own' their down votes, I believe down voting as you say is a privilege, and the votes are owned by the site. Individuals are entrusted with the ability. If they are not using it in a way that respects the ethos of the site, personally I feel they should not have the privilege at all.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:22
  • 4
    What I meant by "privilege" is that downvotes are earned (you have to accumulate 125 rep to be able to DV, and DVing costs you points, so you have to maintain a good rep to continue DVing). And like anything else earned, people feel entitled to spend or use the privilege how they see fit. Others see voting like voting in an election: my vote is mine to spend or waste as I see fit. Some people are in your camp, and will only DV (or UV) for the reasons specified in the tool-tip or other official documentation. But there isn't and can't be a technically-enforced way to stop "foolish" voting.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:25
  • 1
    Anyway, the pattern broadly observed on SE is the more rep you earn, the less and less you care about the rep system, til one day downvotes -- and ultimately upvotes -- mean nothing to you. If you have faith and confidence in your own answer, it comes to be enough. So my advice is not to sweat votes or points. But, hey, everyone follows his own path. Others might chime in with other perspectives on this question.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:27
  • I'm interested in the wider question here, I'm not bothered about the individual -2, or -4 rep it's more the principle of when a downvote clearly has no objective merit, is it wrong, and should it be reported.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:28
  • BTW, while we're on this subject, someone downvoted you, but it wasn't me. I'll upvote you in a second to fix it. And in case you don't already know, voting is different on Meta: here, downvoting doesn't just mean "poor or off-topic question", it can also mean "good, on-topic question, but I disagree with either its premises or its consequences".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:37
  • 5
    Though your complaint is understandable, there is no "downvote with clearly no objective merit" and the same is valid also for upvotes. A few random votes, up or down, will not impair your or any other user reputation.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:40
  • I would disagree, if you provide a word that has a meaning that perfectly fits the context the original questioner asked ; you reference the definition of the word ; and you provide an example sentence. I would say this is a case, where there can be no objective reason for downvoting.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:42
  • 4
    You appear to refer to a specific case. Generally good answers receive more upvotes than downvotes, but you can't control them; you, as we all did, have to get used to random apparently illogical voting.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:45
  • Maybe so, but that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking if the site permits this type of behaviour and if clearly unmerited down votes are accepted. The responses thus far imply a fairly narrow perspective regards my motivations on this, as I say I am not that bothered about the negligable rep loss. I am concerned to understand the ELU stance on the subject. So far from what I've read of the comments, it seems to be a generally tolerated (or dare I say embraced) aspect of the site, that you can vote as you please without really giving the merits of the question any consideration (if you want).
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:50
  • Will be interesting to see if this is still the case tomorrow when I next check in with any other responses, I'm sure one way or the other, I'll learn what the consensus thinking is on the subject. Thanks for the comments, both of you that have commented so far, it's given me some useful insight.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:51
  • 2
    This is a perennial topic. Here's an earlier example.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 7:35
  • 2
    Food for thought: suppose there was a rule that one must not downvote "without an objectively good cause" - how exactly would that be enforced, while still keeping downvotes simple and friction free enough to stay useful as a signal?
    – Oded
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 10:10
  • Surprised no one mentioned "the drive-by downvoter". Has anyone not been hit by this %$#*&? He (it is probably a he) does it because he feels like it and he can.
    – ab2
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 19:32
  • @ab2 if you feel you've been downvoted a lot by this/these drive-by downvoters, which would account for some concrete evidence, you may raise a mod-attention flag on one of your posts and ask moderators to look into it.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 20:25

3 Answers 3


You certainly shouldn't flag a post just because it has received downvotes that you feel are unwarranted. You have no way to tell that someone "downvote[d] a question without an objectively good reason for doing so." Maybe there was a good reason and you just can't think of it. It's nice when people leave comments explaining their reasons for down-voting, but it's been established time and time again that there is no obligation to do so. Moderators do not even have access to the voting history of individual users and they won't investigate unless there is evidence of anomalous voting patterns (as in, repeatedly voting a certain way on a certain user's posts or making a large number of votes in a very small amount of time). When there is evidence of anomalous voting patterns, it's usually obvious and caught by automated systems that bring it to the attention of the moderators, so even in this case there is little reason to flag a post.

  • "Boop" is the noise that goes off in my head when I upvote something. So, boop (I know, I know, younger-generation netizens, "updoot", sigh).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 0:05
  • @DanBron: the one that always baffles me is "upmod." Where does the "mod" come from?
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 0:07
  • Hmm, "mod"eration? No idea really. Maybe a useful question to ask on Main!
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 0:08
  • @DanBron: Huh, I couldn't find any info with a quick search. Time for me to hand it off to the other members of this site: Origin of “upmod”
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 0:17
  • already booped it.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 0:19
  • I would beg to differ. There 'are' cases where it is evidently clear that there is no objective reason for down-voting an answer. These boards are not opinion based. They are factual. There are instances where you give a factual answer, that you know to be correct. The answer is given according to the principles of presenting a good answer, and it is still downvoted.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 10:36

The accepted practice here regarding down-votes that you find puzzling is to ask in comments to the down-voted post. Since you don't know who down-voted, there's no name for you to ping.

Sometimes you'll get an answer from the down-voter, which you should then consider carefully. After all, it reduced their rep to cast the down-vote.

At other times, members of the community other than the down-voter will chip in with educated guesses. If they agree with you, you might get an up-vote from it, which more than cancels out the down-vote. Of course, they may agree with the down-voter and vote your post down further - that's the risk you take.

As for whether thoughtless down-voting is condoned at ELU - no, it isn't. Unfortunately, unless there is a visible voting pattern, it's hard to spot. The motives of individual voters are private. Fortunately, individual undeserved down-votes don't normally amount to much, especially in the face of balancing up-votes.

On flags, I agree with sumelic's answer: don't bother mods with isolated down-votes; it's not worth the hassle.

Finally, even if your answer is factual, referenced, linked and correct, occasionally you'll encounter people who down-vote it because they dislike the question. I disagree with this stance. Fortunately, this doesn't happen a lot, as far as I know.

  • 1
    Interesting, a useful answer, thanks Lawrence.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 13:33
  • 1
    See also meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/3198/… where several people are of the opinion that one should VTC bad questions instead of answering them, and that downvoting answerers is a way to make them aware of this preference.
    – Hellion
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 21:55
  • 1
    @Hellion See also meta.english.stackexchange.com/a/7882/142322, which presents a more moderate view: "I also don't feel it is particularly necessary to downvote an answer on a question that you feel is off-topic if your only reason for downvoting is because the answer exists, not because the answer is bad or lacks research. That's not to say you should upvote it either. You could just leave it alone."
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 22:39

It seems a bit presumptuous to assume that all unexplained downvotes are cast by "dimwitted" individuals who have no good reason to do so.

Maybe the downvoter rightly believes that your word isn't a very good suggestion, despite the fact that you think it's "obviously directly relevant." Or maybe you've made a fair suggetion, but your answer fails to demonstrate that convincingly.

It's quite easy lull yourself into the belief that your answer is expert and above reproach, and therefore any downvote must be because someone is voting spitefully or dimwittedly, or abusing their downvoting privileges. I'd recommend being a bit more introspective, though, and open to critical feedback. Perhaps your downvoted answers aren't quite as stellar as you believe them to be, and maybe you can improve your answers.

I'm not sure which of your recent answers inspired this meta question, but I took a look at a few that recently received downvotes:

I don't buy that alluring "works well" when it comes to describing a decorative vase; alluring would imply the vase was so nice that it pulled me into the room. It's not a terrible word, but it's not a great word, either, and I don't think that downvoting a mediocre suggestion is necessarily a bad thing. As for swift, your answer completely ignores the fact that swift has a fairly common contemporary usage that means "a blunder", and the phrase That was real swift might not be referring to a speedy action at all.

As for your description of "It's work," it might have been a mistake to put the following in bold print:

the thing that is being talked about 'it' - is work ; meaning 'it' is an occupation.

That's not necessarily true! I'll grant you, you explained it well in your next sentence:

More idiomatically this phrase would mean it requires some effort.

However, by putting one part in bold and the other in plain text, some might find your answer misleading.

In any case, I don't think a downvoter needs to justify every downvote, nor am I saying that every downvote is cast for a good reason. But I am saying that some downvotes are case for legitimate reasons, and sometimes the onus is on you to figure out why.

As a footnote, I didn't downvote any of these answers.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .