Is there a category of questions/answers, or a situation in which it is considered appropriate to down-vote correct answers?

As a case study, I'll refer to the question, Finding duplicate values between two arrays

Homework questions, or questions that are suspected to be homework, definitely have a cultural treatment of their own, and that's part of the complication here. In this case a user down-votes answers that are technically correct because the user felt that it was improper to give an answer with complete source code, even though the answers are technically correct, and the people who provided the answers felt it was worth their time to give a full answer, regardless of the perceived difficulty of the question itself.

Jeff and Joel have debated this somewhat on the StackExchange podcast, and it seems that there are essentially two camps around this issue:

  • "If the person hasn't given the question enough work, you should never answer the question," which is sometimes interpreted as, "This is a community for professionals and/or serious enthusiasts, and such questions are not worthy of the community. Therefore we don't want the community to be about this sort of content, and it should voted for closure, or downvoted."

This approach seems to be about what the community values should be, and it definitely has a point.

  • "Whether or not to answer a specific question is an individual decision. If you don't think a question is worth your time, then move on, and let others decide if it's worth their time. Furthermore, let the voting system do its job, and use flags or votes-to-close rather than downvotes if you feel content is inappropriate."

This approach seems to be about the rights of individuals to act within a community, and encouraging others to take a more "hands-off" approach, rather than attempting to impose personal beliefs upon others.

  • 2
    At least everyone there is up 8 points or more for their efforts -- and someone thought it was worth -4 or so to make their point. Seems silly to me, I'd rather use the downvotes on something useful...
    – sarnold
    Dec 5, 2011 at 1:47

4 Answers 4


All voters are free to vote their conscience on any answer or any question for any reason at any time. If you see something downvoted and you disagree, upvote it. Your upvote costs you nothing and delivers more rep than the downvote subtracted.

Arguments about 'voting policy' are a waste of time. In a crowd-sourced system, people will vote for all kinds of reasons. No vote is invalid or against the rules, it's just a vote.

  • So, the fact that I posed the question itself is a reflection of my own values, and I'm already off the impartial train. Hm..interesting insight.
    – jefflunt
    Dec 5, 2011 at 15:53
  • 3
    Crowd-soured - freudian slip??
    – jrturton
    Dec 7, 2011 at 16:16
  • @jrturton Absolutely.
    – Rosinante
    Dec 7, 2011 at 16:17
  • 5
    No vote is invalid or against the rules that's not entirely true. Sock puppets, fanboy voting, and revenge downvoting actually are against the rules. Dec 7, 2011 at 19:57
  • I do not understand a down vote to my valid answer in this question.
    – dmahapatro
    May 8, 2013 at 22:50
  • same here case with me down voted with no reason & my answer is valid. A down vote should not be allowed without a comment(reason of being down voted)... stackoverflow.com/questions/24155025/… Jun 11, 2014 at 5:54
  • "If you see something downvoted and you disagree, upvote it" -- there is a counterargument here: Is it reasonable to upvote in order to counter what I think is an unjustified downvote?
    – 286110
    Jan 25, 2016 at 14:24
  • Disagree is not the same as 'think it's unjustified'. Disagree is 'I think it deserves an upvote.'
    – Rosinante
    Jan 26, 2016 at 1:07

I can think of two cases where I'd consider it appropriate to downvote a correct answer.

For the first case, imagine a question that has two correct answers. One of those is rightly voted higher than the other; both are correct, but one is a little better. Time passes and something changes at a later date that makes the other answer much better, without making the first answer actually incorrect. In this case, it may be appropriate to downvote the first answer simply to help the other answer rise to the top of the list, even though the first answer is still correct.

Note that this is an exceptionally rare thing to happen. Even here, before downvoting it may be better to leave a comment asking the original poster if they would like to expand on their answer, now that the change has taken effect, or perhaps to edit the first if possible to bring it up to speed with the changes.

Again, this is exceptionally rare. My profile shows over 10,000 votes, and I know of exactly one time where I felt this was necessary. Even here, I'm very aware of it, and I check back now and then to see whether the other answer is still under-voted so I can remove my downvote. I don't think it's reasonable to expect everyone to follow through in this way every time it happens; it helps for this case that it's a popular question that still gathers votes now and then and I have an answer on the question, too, so that I'm reminded to check it when I see the reputation change notice. The main point is I'm fairly sure I haven't had to do this anywhere else out of more than 10,000 votes.

The second case is when you have a clear-cut example of plagiarism. In this situation it's also appropriate the flag the post for moderator attention.


I can think of one case where I would down vote a technically correct answer. I know I've come close to doing this many times, and I think I have done it once or twice. It goes off the same principle that Mike Pennington quoted from the down vote arrow itself:

This answer is not useful

The case? When the person answering the question is so rude in giving the answer that it becomes not useful, despite being correct.

Doesn't seem like something that relates to the question you link to, but there it is!

  • 1
    In all honesty, I do the same thing :-)... I just had not thought of that case to mention here Dec 7, 2011 at 21:12

Downvoting should be limited to the following reasoning:

This answer is not useful

I definitely feel a tinge of resentment towards people who gravitate towards homework questions particularly if the question is covering basic ground, or the question doesn't show much effort. However, if the answer is correct I leave my feelings about their reasoning for answering the question out of it.

My punishment for someone who answers those kind of questions is not voting for the answer. Answer downvoting should be reserved for incorrect answers; and I personally argue that downvotes should be given more for grossly incorrect answers that couldn't be remedied otherwise through comments.

  • +1 for preemptively quoting the same thing I did! :p Dec 8, 2011 at 1:04

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