Someone once said:

"There are no stupid questions but just stupid answers."

However, on Stack Overflow a down-voter gets -1 for down-voting an answer, but gets no penalty at all for down-voting a question. This means that the down-voter can label any question as "stupid" without feeling any pain. Is this fair?

I think some people feel a pleasure to down-vote, so they need to have the ability to do this without feeling it.

  • 1
    Downvoting does not mean it is a stupid question. It means it is a question that does not fit the scope of the site.
    – juergen d
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:22
  • 23
    And no matter how cute that quote might sound, there certainly are stupid questions. And lots of them.
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:23
  • 1
    stackoverflow people may not agree with that quote.. Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:24
  • SO people can vote to close questions. Why not getting -1 or -10 or -100 or whatever for every downvote, no matter it is a question or not?
    – Dan D.
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:27
  • As I said in my question, but it was edited: Let the down-vote party on my question begin.
    – Dan D.
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:28
  • 5
    @Dan I edited that out for a reason. If you don't want to be constructive from the start, we might as well abandon this question.
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:30
  • @Bart I want to find out why there is a lack of fairness, equality,... for down-voters. IMHO, they should get the same no matter they downvote a question or an answer.
    – Dan D.
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:32
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    That's fine and well. But adding such drivel as "Let the down-vote party on my question begin" will only attract downvotes and makes it not constructive.
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:33
  • I am glad to see how its constructiveness grows with every downvote it gets :)
    – Dan D.
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:35
  • 1
    @Dan: See the FAQ; votes on MSO are different from the regular Stack Exchange websites. People vote on the premise of your discussion points. Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:35
  • 1
    @Dan You only have yourself to blame
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:35
  • 2
    I'm hoping you've read Should downvotes on questions be "free"?, the meta post that led to this change. There's... an amount of discussion there about this topic...
    – AakashM
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:42
  • 1
    it feels fair to me after reading this explanation by Mark Trapp ...Being able to write your own answer is key: if your answer is good enough, it'll rise above the junk answers and everyone will be better off for it. There is no such action for question lists. I can't say "these questions suck, show me this question I just thought up instead": that'd be silly. So, it's imperative the question list have a high signal-to-noise ratio, and removing the penalty for those users who do take the time to read a question...
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 11:57
  • A stupid question is one for which figuring out the answer yourself would've taken less effort than asking someone else. That's a pretty low bar, and actually most of the questions on SO are over it, but downvotes don't just mean "question is stupid".
    – jscs
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


Downvoting questions has two purposes: decluttering the homepage, and lowering the trust metric for OP.

We downvote questions that do not fit the scope of the site and show a lack of effort from the OP, and such questions are not worthy of getting time on the Stack Overflow homepage.

The OP also loses reputation when their question is downvoted, to indicate a loss of trust. We don't trust that they will ask good questions in the future either, until proven otherwise. Merely closing their questions does not reflect that loss of trust.

Note that there is a huge difference in visibility between bad questions and bad answers. A bad answer clutters up just one page, a bad question gets far more visibility. Thus, downvoting a question is free as opposed to downvoting an answer, it reflects that difference.

  • 1
    Decluttering the home page is a huge one. I hate to downvote a new user that's not being completely abusive, but when I can get that -3, unsalvagable post off the front page with a downvote...I really gotta do it
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 13:30

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