At the moment, it is suggested to users that they should downvote if

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

This is a pretty lax criterion. Also, it overlaps with the causes for closing a question (officially-listed ones and perhaps also the meta-rationale for when a question should be closed.)

On some sites - at least, on StackOverflow - problematic questions get downvoted very quickly and repeatedly. This is particularly problematic when it comes to new users, who make various honest mistakes or are just not used to what SO (or other network sites) are like.

In light of the above, I suggest:

  1. That the tool-tip for downvoting be changed to something like:

This question should remain open, but does not show any research effort; and it is unclear or not useful

  1. That the downvoting privilege page be changed accordingly: From

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

to something like:

Use your downvotes when you encounter a question which should exist on the site, i.e. should not be closed, but is egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post; or when you encounter an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.

  • @MaxLanghof: Per your suggestion. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Aug 19 at 16:33
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    There is often overlap between closure and utility. You can do both; they are not meant to be exclusive. That said, trying to police downvoting is as easy as policing pity upvotes; ie. not at all. – fbueckert Aug 19 at 16:46
  • @fbueckert: I realize you can do both; I'm suggesting that people be encouraged to refrain from downvoting when closing is appropriate. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Aug 19 at 16:53
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    The two actions are not meant for the same thing, and you're conflating them as such. I'm pointing out that is incorrect. – fbueckert Aug 19 at 16:54
  • @fbueckert: If they overlap, then they are partially meant for the "same thing". At least the way things stand right now. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Aug 19 at 16:56
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    "This question should remain open" wut? Downvoting leads to deletion... so stating it should remain open is... misleading when the action you're taking generally leads to deletion. – user400654 Aug 19 at 17:13
  • @gnat: It's not the only condition. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Aug 19 at 18:07

Votes are not meant for the person posting the question/answer; they are meant for people who might read it. They are not a corrective measure (per se). They are a signpost saying how many people think the question is worthwhile or not. They tell you whether you should bother reading it.

Voting and closing are two distinct channels of information which say two different things about the post. And yes, many questions which are close-worthy are also not worth your time to read, but that's not an actual problem. Voting is doing its job: letting people know what is worth their time and what is not. Closing is doing its job: stopping people from answering an inappropriate question.

Overlap between these is fine.

  • If votes were not meant for the person posting, then there would be no reputation reduction due to downvotes (and perhaps none due to upvotes either). I believe you are factually mistaken on this point. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Aug 19 at 16:52
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    @einpoklum: Reputation is removed due to downvotes for the same reason that reputation is granted for upvotes: we want to offer an incentive for posting good content and a disincentive for posting bad content. But the main point of voting is to score the question/answer, to make a statement about its content and quickly sum up its value. – Nicol Bolas Aug 19 at 16:54

Please no. As explained by Nicol Bolas, overlap between the two is fine; it's even more than fine, actually.

Closed questions with a positive score are less subject to automatic removal. Nicely written duplicates apart (and then again...), most closed and abandoned questions are... Just not helpful. And not worth keeping around because two guys upvoted them, and someone else refrained, because "the question should be closed but I'll keep my downvotes for to-be-left-open stuff".

Basically, downvoting unclear/too broad/other close-worthy stuff is crucial for automatic cleanup of the sites.

That also applies to answers to those close-worthy questions; see Should one downvote answers to off-topic questions?.

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