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If downvoting is so important, why does it cost reputation?
Should downvotes on questions be “free”?

The title basically says it all: "Why is downvoting a question free but downvoting an answer not?"

I ask this because I think bad answers are a lot more damaging than bad questions. If it is a a bad question it might lead to some minutes wasted for the people that read it. But a bad answer can lead to big bugs into production code. False faith in how stuff works, or can even be bad propaganda.

So why does it cost me that silly 1 rep. I know it shouldn't matter. I have plenty of rep, but still I hesitate that tiny bit before doing it.

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marked as duplicate by animuson, Shog9 Sep 9 '12 at 20:39

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Bad question distract visitors from finding the right questions, and ultimately, the answers that they seek. – Martijn Pieters Sep 9 '12 at 20:15
It's part of the site's quality control. Making it easier to downvote questions helps to purge some of the garbage that comes in everyday. – Mysticial Sep 9 '12 at 20:15
Those are all reasons why question downvoting is free, not why answer downvoting isn't. I do thank you for the link though. Nice to have the reason for the first being free. – Roy T. Sep 9 '12 at 20:33
The more important question: Why is upvoting free? – Yannis Sep 9 '12 at 21:00
up vote 6 down vote accepted

For some reason, I've observed that people are more naturally inclined to vote on answers rather than questions. To correct this anomaly, the Stack Exchange team put in place some incentives to help the community focus more effort on voting on questions.

Without questions, there would be no answers. Also, oftentimes the quality of the answers is directly proportional to the quality of the question being asked; therefore, to encourage more downvoting on questions, the Stack Exchange team removed the cost to downvoting questions so that the automatic filters would be able to apply question bans on users who post poor questions.

With answers, this really isn't needed, since a single answer has no effect on the quality of the question or the other answers.

Lastly, if an answer is bad enough to where it will have a negative effect on production code, people will downvote it. Oftentimes, just a -1 score is enough to encourage the answerer to fix the post or delete the answer. The cost on answer downvotes is just to help discourage strategic downvoting or overt downvoting on answers that aren't really bad. If answer downvotes were free, we'd likely see a lot more reckless and uncalled-for answer downvoting on what are otherwise helpful posts.

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Hmm I'm not sure if I agree 100% with 2 and 3. But I do agree with the 1st and 4th. A -1 is deterrent enough not to use that answer. So we don't need much downvotes. So the real question would be do we really need a penalty on answer downvotes? – Roy T. Sep 9 '12 at 20:38
@RoyT. - Yes, we do need a penalty. If it were easier to downvote answers, then it might encourage people to downvote just because we disagree with something rather than it actually being wrong. This forces us to take into account the answer as a whole and focus on whether or not it's helpful. It also ensures that we only downvote if the answer is bad enough to where we're willing to make a small sacrifice as well. The -1 is negligible, but if I go on a downvoting spree, it's no longer negligible. This is the system doing it's job to keep us focused on upvoting good content and downvoting bad. – jmort253 Sep 9 '12 at 20:44

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