I understand that for question asking, if quality is low or it looks like there was not sufficient effort or time put into asking a question it can be downvoted.

My question is: why is there a penalty for downvoting answers? Shouldn't they be under the same scrutiny and review of the community at large? I feel like sometimes people answer questions which either do not fully address the question or are misleading or inaccurate. In this case, once an answer has already been provided, the question is less likely to receive a different answer to improve upon it.

I feel like by penalizing downvotes we are discouraging people from holding answers to higher standards. Also, why can comments not be downvoted?

Interested to hear you guys thoughts on this.


What about allowing downvotes without any penalty to both the issuer and the person who answered the question? Would just seeing a downvote discourage users to post answers?


4 Answers 4


One of the reasons for the cost to down vote answers, is to discourage answer-er's from down voting other answers, simply to move their answer to the top.

Data Science does not have so much traffic that competitive answering is a problem that really needs addressing, (wouldn't that be great?) But on Stack Overflow, the FGITW & SCITE can be a problem.

Comments, on the other hand, are a different animal. They are meant to be ephemeral. The up voting can be useful for when there a lot of comments on a post and the lower voted comments start to be hidden by default. The way to remove an inappropriate or out of date comment is to raise a flag on the comment.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you, these are two very good points. $\endgroup$
    – Ethan
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 15:54

The logic (outlined a bit in this blog post) is basically as follows:

SE values answers more than questions. That's why there is no penalty for downvoting questions (and less reputation gain for question upvotes than answers).

A bad question is considered more harmful than a bad answer because it diminishes the overall appeal of the site. Similarly a good answer is valued more than a good question because it is easier to ask a good question than to give a good answer.

The small penalty is meant to make you consider carefully which answers to downvote in order not to discourage other people from answering.

Nonetheless, you are encouraged to downvote in some cases, in particular:

Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.

But more importantly:

What are the alternatives to downvoting?

The upvote privilege comes first because that's what you should focus on: pushing great content to the top. Downvoting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing.

Generally speaking, we would like to see more answers and that the good/great ones raise to the top via upvotes. The worse ones should be improved by the community if possible through edits (and, more limited, comments). Downvotes are reserved for the hopefully few remaining answers.

Comments are not meant for answering questions and therefore there is not much need for downvoting. Instead you can flag comments that are rude or spam (as you are encouraged to flag answers that don't meet our standards).

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for this explanation, this clears this up. However, I still think that it is unrealistic to expect people to willingly sacrifice their own reputation for the betterment of the community, just look at how infrequent bounties are. $\endgroup$
    – Ethan
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 15:55

I feel like by penalizing downvotes we are discouraging people from holding answers to higher standards.

Not at all. If you vote well you get your reputation back.

It's only if there's not enough agreement with you, or the answer isn't deleted, that you pay a small penalty to express a negative opinion; it costs the receiver double - and you're free to upvote competing answers and hold your peace.

See: "How does Reputation Work?":

You gain reputation when:

  • A downvote on one of your questions or answers is removed: +2
  • You remove a downvote from an answer: +1 *
  • An answer you downvoted is removed: +1
  • ...

You lose reputation when:

  • One of your questions or answers is voted down/not useful: −2
  • You vote an answer down/not useful: −1 *
  • You unaccept an answer written by someone else to one of your own questions: −2
  • ...

Notice that while downvoting an answer costs you one reputation it's double for person whom wrote the answer; if the answer gets deleted your lost reputation is refunded.

Also, why can comments not be downvoted?

Most people agree: If you disagree with a comment post a constructive comment or upvote an existing one. Adding downvotes on comments has been declined. Downvotes on comments are more ambiguous than they are on Q&As and while they've much less effect on the sorting they are first to be hidden if there are too many and others are more recent or upvoted.

If a comment is particularly bad it can be flagged.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for taking the time to make this post. This added some additional interesting insight. $\endgroup$
    – Ethan
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 22:34

I Have just a suggestion, I am not against down-voting neither in support, I just feel initially if a person down-votes someone, the person should be penalised (currently -1), but if in some time the post receives more down-vote and crosses a certain threshold (decided by community and can be dynamic and can vary with many factors) the (-1) reputation which are initially taken away should be given back (of a part of it could be given back). This is just a suggestion, I know this can create some problems like if a post is down-voted, then it will be more likely to receive more down votes in future, but something like this could be implemented to make the system more logical.


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