I've been wondering for a while if the number of upvotes on answers is declining - and from my stats that appears to be the case.

I just checked my recent history and while the number of accepted answers I'm getting is staying fairly consistent - the upvotes on answers I'm getting have collapsed. My stats are here. Since I joined I've answered 167 questions - with 30 answers being accepted by the OP. So usually 1 in 5 or 6 answers is accepted.

For the last 25 answers I've made 6 were made the accepted answer by the OP, with four of those accepted answers receiving no upvotes. The last 25 answers have attracted 12 upvotes in total.

A year ago when I first started on SO my first 25 answers yielded 4 accepted answers and 26 upvotes.

So at the moment I am getting half the upvotes I was getting a year ago, but more of my answers are being accepted. Generally scanning the questions coming in also suggests that there are fewer upvotes on answers - even if upvotes on questions look healthy.

In my case this could be a blip - but it feels like a general decline over time. I guess proof would be good!

Has anyone done any analysis recently on the SO database to see if upvotes on answers are generally on the decline?

Also I wonder if the Electorate Gold badge has adjusted behaviour as of the 12 gold badges it is probably the easiest to get without having to answer a bunch of questions - and it encourages voting on questions (to the possible detriment of voting on answers). Does anyone else think that this badge actively discourages people from upvoting answers?


I've made a comment below regarding civic duty and electorate - I think that the users with the civic duty badge are the heart and soul of the site. Those 7000 people (obviously some will be inactive) will do most of the scrounging around looking for questions to answer, upvoting or downvoting where appropriate and generally being good citizens. They are the sergeants of this site (with the exception of the 10k+ officer class users) - I think that the behaviour of this group has been changed, they are the kind of users who notice the new badges and I bet that many are NOTICEABLY chasing the electorate badge.

A gold badge for voting? A bad pattern IMHO.

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    Interesting. I think the main culprit for this is the increased number of questions that is growing faster than the absolute number of people who vote on the site. Still, the 25% rule of the electorate badge is counter-productive.
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 11:40

5 Answers 5


Has anyone done any analysis recently on the SO database to see if upvotes on answers are generally on the decline?

You mean this or this?
Why are votes per post on the decrease (what can we do to improve this)?
Why aren't people voting as much as they used to?

Also I wonder if the Electorate Gold badge has adjusted behaviour

Absolutely. I continue to reserve my answer votes until I get it (with some exceptions). I think I should have it already, but from what I understand, it is not calculated daily/immediately unlike other badges.

  • +1 Good points, the graph on the second link is good but runs to October 2010 (about the time that I think the electorate badge was introduced) - I wonder if there is a marked downturn from the point of the introduction (or unhiding of) the electorate badge.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:15
  • @amelvin See this page, which has slightly more recent results, as well as the queries used to obtain the data. Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 3:09

I typically up vote a question that I'm about to answer, and if I'm about to answer it usually means that I found something missing in the existing answers. I have both the Electorate and Sportsmanship badge, I often up-vote competing answers as well as questions. That doesn't mean that I don't up vote questions that I happen to see go by on the front page or unanswered question page.

I don't think the Electorate badge is discouraging people from up voting answers. I think it's working as intended by encouraging people to up vote good questions. If you think about SO from the context of someone arriving for the first time and searching, the highest voted question becomes interesting before the highest voted answer to the highest voted question. Now, if we could just get them to search! (tongue in cheek).

Additionally, I wish I could award the vote that was intended by the 20 or 30 'thank you' answers that I have to merge or remove every day, probably over 100 in a span of 24 hours. I don't think it's the badge, I think it's our ever expanding user base where quite a few take a bit more time than our initial core to 'catch on' to how the system is supposed to work.

At least, that's the impression I get from my bird's eye view of things.

  • +1 I also tend to upvote a question I'm going to answer - because if its worth answering it must have worth. I can't recall when the electorate badge was introduced; but I think it was introduced relatively recently - and as @Richard aka cyberkiwi points out it has affected some existing user's behaviour as a result.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:13

Another thing to consider is the change to the homepage algorithm so that it now show you new interesting but unanswered questions.

Once an answer (or two) gets two or three up-votes then the question will tend to disappear from the home page, reducing the number of people that see it thus reducing the voting chances.

  • +1 I guess this is also evident in the lower number of views most questions seem to get despite the overall health of the site.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:19
  • That is a good point.
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:37
  • That would mean views not votes are more interesting, because while the question disappears from the homepage, we hope the Google-masses will still appreciate the content, whilst not voting for it
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 13:02

I don’t think most users even know about the Electorate badge, so I don’t think it has that much effect.

I tent to up-vote an answer if it learn something from it, the most general questions were asked a long term ago on SO, therefore the answers that the most people can lean from where posted a long time ago. We are now on SO truly into the “long tail” ….

  • +1 All good points. If we are in the long tail, then surely the reputation system needs an overhaul as an answer upvote in 2009 was significantly easier to achieve than an answer upvote in 2011 - but both have the same value ..... that leads me onto asking another question I think.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:26
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    @amelvin, I don't think the rep system needs an overhaul, as it is only there to issure there are enough trusted users to keep the site in order. The rep system is not there to allow you do anything for your own sake. Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:34
  • I think that the rep system is out of balance. If upvotes were valued based on the current year - so 2011 11 points per upvote, 2009 9 points per upvote I think that it would balance the changed voting strategies and the fact that so much low hanging fruit has been picked.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 13:01

Although most activity happens early in the life of a post, you still could get votes months or years later on your posts. (I know I vote on year old questions frequently). Therefore comparing the vote count of 30 recent answers with 30 answers that are a year old is not a fair comparison.

Secondly, although the Electorate badge might hamper some users, I would imagine that is a very small number.

  • I think (but don't know) that answer upvotes started to downturn more quickly in late autumn when a bunch of new badges were introduced - I think the electorate badge was one of them.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:17
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    @Amelvin. Maybe, but there are only 7000 users with even the Civic Duty badge and 10% of them already have the Electorate Badge. So it might be a factor but I think not large enough to make a noticeable impact.
    – jzd
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:23
  • @jzd the 7000 users with the civic duty badge probably represent the majority of currently 'active' users (not the lurkers or one-question-and-never-return types). If they change their voting habits to achieve electorate then I think this will be VERY noticeable - and I think people are noticing. A gold badge for simply voting is a bad pattern IMO - should be downgraded to silver.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 12:57
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    @Amelvin, that is assuming that the 7000 users are current active, know about the electorate badge, and are changing their habits to meet that goal. This seems like a lot of assumptions and speculation. Without data we are just guessing as to the effect.
    – jzd
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 13:42
  • @jzd Not all those 7000 will be active, but if each has voted 1000 times each on average, then factoring in question reputation, accepted and accepting answers then I would guess that these users have distributed 50-100 million points of reputation between them over time. If half of them are active and they make, say, 50-60 votes a month that's still about 2,000,000 reputation points a month being distributed - change the habits of this group and you change the site.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 14:42
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    @amelvin, it would be interesting to know: 1. What percentage of all voting does this group make up. 2. Has there been an increase in questions voting in this group? (Which would support the theory of a drop in answer voting due to Electorate Badge).
    – jzd
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 14:57
  • @jzd I agree - those stats would prove/disprove the theory - surely someone must have the time/an itch to run a report on the stats! Perhaps that's a feature request - somewhere to add a bounty to make data requests. I guess I could use the rep from this question to pay for such a bounty.
    – amelvin
    Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 10:57

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