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It is incredibly rare that I downvote on this or any other community site. I would rather just ignore the item. However, occasionally some very bad advice is given that is worthy of a downvote. Why should this adversely affect the reputation of the person who downvotes?

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18 Answers 18

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The motivation behind it is to put emphasis on up-voting or not voting at all. This way, down votes will carry more weight and it will also prevent users from abusing the system by down-voting excessively.

According to what the founders, Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky, discussed on an episode of the Stack Overflow podcast, they wanted to find a way to discourage users from down-voting for less legitimate reasons (say a pro-Java developer down-voting everything remotely related to .NET or the like).

I have to admit, it definitely puts it into perspective to compare how many points you gain for other activities vs. the 1 point you lose for a down vote. It is effectively the smallest penalty that the Stack Overflow scoring system will permit.

Also, it may not be the best possible approach, but one has to start somewhere.

Note that you only lose reputation for downvoting answers, not for downvoting questions, and downvoting a Community Wiki answer does not deduct reputation from the voter or the author(s) of the answer.

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    Of course, the flipside is that someone can up vote anything at all (including wrong answers) for no reason at all. And yes, this has been happening.
    – NotMe
    Oct 1, 2008 at 21:07
  • you do not lose rep for marking offensive and the downvote rep loss is so small as to be meaningless unless you go on a spree.
    – EBGreen
    Oct 1, 2008 at 21:09
  • 54
    It's not a punishment, it's a payment. You are buying a downvote. Reputation is merely currency, and it will become more so as I expect them to add bounties to questions - I can pledge a portion of my reputation to the accepted or highest voted answer of a question to get better/faster response.
    – Pollyanna
    Oct 29, 2008 at 14:53
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    Kinda late, but if the post is deleted and a rep recalc is performed, then you'll get your rep back.
    – Hello71
    Sep 11, 2010 at 0:34
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    It is really not the right solution to the problem. Appropriately down voting an answer is improving the question and the site. This action should not be damaging a user's reputation, even by 1 point. It should boost it if anything. Is it a user's reputation, or is it Stack Exchange currency? I think a monthly/weekly down vote quota would be a more appropriate solution and only allow it for users who have reached a certain reputation score (indicating they hopefully understand how the system works). The quota could even still be earned as percentage of the user's other activity on the site.
    – xr280xr
    Mar 17, 2014 at 18:11
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    If some troll goes around down voting good answers, the majority will still win via up votes.
    – xr280xr
    Mar 17, 2014 at 18:13
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    "Note that you only lose reputation for downvoting answers, not questions." --- which is completely counter-intuitive: what's the old adage, There's no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid answers?" And yet according to this system, you can punish questions with impunity? Derp.
    – d370urn3ur
    Mar 26, 2015 at 9:29
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    This is really dumb -- I am pretty sure people don't just downvote to do it. Taking rep away from the downvoter is not a good solution in the slightest.
    – Sethen
    Jun 26, 2015 at 19:25
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    then we should also be awarded for upvote as well ;) Oct 18, 2015 at 15:03
  • It would be helpful - to the Answerer, as well as for site info - if the down-voter was given a drop-down to select reason for down-vote, from SE terms & conditions list or similar ... use of catch-all "Other" should only result in loss of one rep point from Answerer, rather than two !
    – MikeW
    Aug 16, 2017 at 9:14
  • It seems like it would make more sense to lose a point for downvoting a question and not lose one for downvoting an answer. After all, there are no dumb questions, just dumb answers. Apr 10, 2018 at 19:22
  • I understand the reason behind that but why not considering removing the -1 reputation from the downvoter if a clarifying comment is provided? Stack Overflow can also make a review queue for these comments and make the decision of reputation deduction up for the reviewers. May 21 at 6:16
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So you will think twice before doing it.

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    @user151827 You've answered with minimal usage of words but still enough to understand and think about your comment. Thus I would really agree with the one questioner - Users shouldn't be allowed to vote down the answer, in case they don't like it they should ignore it, and in case it has a rude attitude they should flag it. Simple as that.
    – sensation
    Jun 7, 2013 at 21:09
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To be a slight deterrent to someone downvoting everything they don't like.

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So how is that different than somebody voting up indiscriminately? Instead of the java developer voting down everything .NET, you have the java developer voting up everything Java. I also don't see how marking something wrong down should degrade your reputation when you are doing the community a favor. Maybe you should just get a "curmudgeon" badge.

While I see the simple votes as easy to understand, I'd rather see something like badges for answers. That way you could have things like "verified" where the voter had a choice like "I have implemented this answer and it works for me", Or "incorrect" where the choice was "I have tried this answer and it does not appear to work".

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    'tis worth noting that us n00bs can only vote so many times in a day. Tends to discourage frivolous voting
    – LRE
    Aug 20, 2009 at 19:46
  • You can still downvote every QUESTION of .NET. However, the APs are safe. Jan 8, 2014 at 13:22
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I often wonder if -2 off the person your down-voting is enough. Maybe it should be -10 to equal the amount they might get off an up-vote. I only say this as one user could have got one down-vote and one up-vote which would still equate to +8 rep points for them. (Even though their vote score would still be at zero).

Of course I understand that -10 might seem excessive, I’m just looking at a view point of balancing the rep when it comes to up-votes and down-votes.

Keeping it to -1 for the person who originally cast the down-vote but giving -10 to the person who's been given that down-vote might seem fairer to some, and make it more acceptable when losing some rep to down-vote a bad post/answer.

EDIT: I do believe that down-voting should be kept to a minimum and only used when really neccessary.

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    I generally do not downvote. All too frequently, downvoting is used as a tactic to dis competing answers, or to troll; with one user (on a different site) proudly explaining that positive reputation is only useful because it allows for downvoting, which that user takes inordinate satisfaction from using. Moreover, negative voting on questions does not hurt a person with a the reputation of 1, which newbies receive is a high proportion of question downvotes, except in so far as it is a warning not to ask questions at all.
    – Carl
    Jan 26, 2020 at 20:33
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I know it's a deterrent to stop people abusing the system but it still seems unfair to loose reputation for pointing out a rubbish reply / question. I for one won't ever vote anyone down now which probably isn't a good thing?

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  • You have 9,700 rep and aren't willing to sacrifice one to call out a bad answer? Feb 12 at 17:30
  • I do not know what brought you to this old Q&A, but I have to note that at the time of posting in 2009, the OP had much, much less rep than they have now: stackoverflow.com/users/73228/… Feb 12 at 19:35
  • I didn't realize it was this old. It was on the front page of meta.stackexchange.com, less than half way down. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Feb 13 at 15:19
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    @THEJOATMON ah, yes, 'tis the edits that bumped it, no worries - it's not like UI for active questions makes it clear that a post is an ancient relic. Feb 14 at 12:22
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I like the idea. It keeps people from mass down voting for the sake of down voting, since you yourself take a penalty for the action.

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I think it's to discourage people from down voting indiscriminately.

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    Is down-voting indiscriminately any more harmful than upvoting indiscriminately?
    – Ajedi32
    Mar 15, 2016 at 15:58
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The loss of a point on a down-vote is really a mechanism to punish newer users and prevent them from abusing the system. Let's face it; the 30K rep users here really could care less about a point, but they've gotten to that point because they've been around a while and are active in the system. They (theoretically) know better when to down-vote and when to add a comment to help the asker/answerer in question. New users, on the other hand, value every point they can get and need incentive to not just go on a down-vote binge because they didn't have their coffee.

Or at least that's what I believe.

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    Not relevant to this question. The OP here is asking about the -1 for the down-voter, not the -2 to the owner of the post. Nov 20, 2013 at 15:48
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    I think the answer still holds. Not sure why someone downvoted it. I changed my answer to reflect -1 instead of -2. Nov 20, 2013 at 15:51
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    Ah, OK It was me, thinking you were refering only to the -2 penalty to the author of downvoted post. Better and clearer now. Nov 20, 2013 at 15:53
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I'll admit to being annoyed about something in the SOverse and thinking "I'd like to downvote that". The cost associated with that helps me keep things in perspective. Nothing has yet been worth the downvote.

I should also note that when you don't have much in the way of rep to start with the cost of a downvote is proportionately far greater than for someone with a lot of rep. This favours having high-rep users as the ones who do the downvoting - which is in line with the basic idea of rep IMO.

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It seems reasonable to me. You're limited to a certian number of down-votes a day anyway, right? If you're contributing positively to the site at all, then I doubt you'd notice the change in your reputation.

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  • You are limited in your number of votes per day (I believe 50), but I don't know if there's also a specific down-vote max per day as well. Oct 22, 2008 at 18:01
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It also seems reasonable to me. I've only downvoted once, and that was on a truly bad answer. (I've been downvoted at least three times, and I think four, and I understand why on most of them ... )

The one-point penalty is a "keep-it-honest" deal. Downvote for something BAD, but not just because you don't like it.

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It's a deterrent to some users who might otherwise down-vote indiscriminately. I think most people would down-vote only rarely regardless, but there are some who might want to use down-voting to penalize other users for having a different opinion, for using the wrong language, for having too much rep, etc.

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  • People do this anyway because they know they will get sympathy upvoted on their own content more than enough to make up for the petty downvotes they cast.
    – Nij
    Dec 22, 2017 at 19:29
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My guess is that it is to make you think twice: Is it really worth 2 whole reputation points to mark this as bad, or should I just ignore it? It seems to work quite effectively.

Free down-votes would probably result in a habitual down-voting of mostly anything that someone doesn't agree with; a small penalty lessens that tendency.

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    Just a nitpick - the downvoter gets one rep point subtracted. The user who wrote the response that got downvoted gets 2 rep points deducted.
    – Michael Burr
    Oct 1, 2008 at 21:15
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It is a good way to stop you downvoting all answers except your own, which could increase your answer's ranking, and would be anti-community.

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    How can you see whether somebody voted to delete? Anyway, perhaps that user thought this must already have been covered in the other answers, but I can't find it (not here; it is mentioned in numerous other Meta answers, e.g. the ones about voting locks).
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Mar 5, 2020 at 20:45
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    How can you see whether somebody voted to delete? - @Glorfindel The button to delete the answer says delete (1) instead of delete Mar 5, 2020 at 22:02
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    Ah, of course. I don't see the button because it doesn't have a negative score so I can't vote to delete it.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Mar 5, 2020 at 22:19
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    @Glorfindel Post authors always see the delete button, so they can see if their own post has delete votes regardless of score. Mar 6, 2020 at 6:14
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One point would be, to avoid excessive use of it. You should only down vote if it is a bad post.

One Rep-Point is not much but it makes some think twice before spending it ;)

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The reasons for down-voting are too numerous and complex to be reliably and accurately discriminated, some down-votes are justified, others not at all. Losing reputation, and losing a single point, is a compromise, a Keep It Simple approach.

Here are various reasons for down-voting, gathered from common sens and from answers and comments above, arbitrarily ranked from those calling for more than 1 point in reputation loss to those calling for no reputation loss (or even a gain):

  • retaliation: a user feels offended by some comments, or finds out who down-voted him/her and goes on a down-vote rampage
  • indiscriminate down-vote: a user is in a bad mood, is upset, irritated, having a bad day, doesn't like a user, the answer...
  • SPAM: question or answer is clearly written with a will to spam the site, it's helping the community to shadow these by a down vote (SPAM should be flagged, edit: flagging a post as SPAM automatically downvotes the post at no reputation loss downvote, from Catjia's comment)
  • the answer contains offending wording (they can be flagged too)
  • the question has been already asked, shows no effort from the user to search by him/herself
  • the answer given is off-topic (similar to SPAM but in a more subtle way)
  • the answer given is misleading or plain wrong

I'd sure support a no-reputation-loss when down-voting spam, and even a reputation gain when down-voting a misleading or wrong answer with a justification for the down-vote; someone who aggressively down vote for no given reason should lose more than 1 point.

But unless SE introduces Artificial Intelligence to analyze users behavior and the content of their justification for down-vote so the system can sort legitimate down-votes from those given in pure revenge, a -1 loss is a good compromise.

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    Just FYI, flagging something as spam applies an automatic, free downvote... it's not necessary to additionally downvote it.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jun 7, 2018 at 2:03
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    ...but if you do, that reputation point will be restored as soon as the post is deleted, so it's a net-zero anyway.
    – ale
    Jun 7, 2018 at 11:06
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Something that surprisingly isn't mentioned in any of the Answers is the fact that if the question is deleted you get your rep back. In other words, if enough people down-vote the question, this generally results in the question being deleted by the questions author, assuming the author is still able to delete the question. I my experience, I tend to get about 50%-60% of my DVs back on Stack Overflow, but I also contribute occasionally to a few of the other Stack Exchange sites, and have found that people often leave questions that are down-voted, and have no answer, un-deleted, whereas on Stack Overflow people put much effort into maintaining a spotless account.

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    *Answer. You don't lose rep for downvoting questions. Feb 12 at 17:29

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