While at least some answers from every question seem to have been up-voted as a "helpful" answer:

  • about 49% of questions have score of 0 or 1.
  • another 21% of questions have a score of 2.

Most questions seem to have an answer or two with score +5. Is it that we have a lot of fluff questions and not useful ones? Or perhaps it just seems more natural to vote for answers than questions? If we want the most useful info on Stack Overflow to filter to the top, how can this disparity be fixed?

I think this may cause real problems for people getting the badges which require +25 or +100 votes on questions.

I like a lot of the feedback I'm seeing. Two problems are highlighted:

  1. The work flow doesn't promote voting for questions the way it promotes voting for answers. One solution: when a user answers a question, the system should invite them to vote for the question. If someone cares enough to answer a question, then they care enough to vote for it as well.
  2. Users with less than 15 reputation cannot vote for questions or answers. Is this warranted? Maybe these users could provisionally vote for questions and answers and those ratings would only take effect when the user reaches 15 reputation?

All I ask is this. As you browse Stack Overflow, when you see a good question: vote for it.

If everyone does, then this problem will disappear.

  • 7
    Just commenting that as of 9/9/08 the stats have shifted slightly and more questions are being ranked. Now its ~46% ranked 0 or 1, and ~17% ranked 2.
    – Justin Standard
    Commented Sep 9, 2008 at 18:52
  • 64
    I think the real issue is that questions and answers are treated alike in the voting system. As a result, questions get compared to answered in terms of vote and most of the time, answers look more helpful and well crafted than questions. I believe the system should differentiate votes on questions and answers (I think Joel mentioned this idea in the latest podcast(#62))
    – mmx
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 at 16:10
  • 4
    Maybe the people answering the questions are ranking them - by not voting them up? Commented Oct 2, 2009 at 2:44
  • 44
    Perhaps because the overall quality of the questions are low? Commented Nov 25, 2009 at 19:42
  • 19
    There's also strange situations where a question gets more favorites than it does votes (serverfault.com/questions/3780/…). Are we seeing redundancy due to voting up a question and favoriting a question are basically saying the same thing?
    – Shane
    Commented Dec 10, 2009 at 21:56
  • 35
    I have favorited, but not upvoted, questions that I think are not great but want to revisit later. I have even favorited questions I have downvoted, or voted to close, because I want to see what happens to them. Commented May 7, 2011 at 1:00
  • 1
    @arch check these related feature request questions: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4719/add-answer-later-tab meta.stackexchange.com/questions/69346/…
    – Knu
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 21:17
  • I always vote for questions, relatively more than for answers, but there are more answers than questions so thats why I have more answer votes. On the other hand I always try to keep updating my formatting so that the question gets better and better like here: stackoverflow.com/questions/16605834/… and here: stackoverflow.com/questions/16586469/… but still questions won't get upvotes:( I don't see what I am doing wrong here
    – Nick N.
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 9:46
  • 4
    I think questions need to have two types of votes. One for how well the question is written (code examples, clarity etc). This could be moderated. The second rating would be for value and relevance of the question. Now some of the relevance will be related to the number of views (could be related to title keywords) but more importantly that a question has some value to other programmers. Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 0:50
  • 2
    I've seen some questions with huge amounts of upvotes and they are usually questions to a very common problem that has yet to be asked or questions that are very uncommon about a particular subject that the majority can participate in. There's also the idea that answers take more work than questions in general, and the merit reflects that? Just some psychological analysis of human nature in the matter. Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 19:53
  • 1
    "I think this may cause real problems for people getting the badges which require +25 or +100 votes on questions." Is that really such a significant problem that it requires a solution?
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 21:03
  • 80% old questions ware having positive score where as upcoming questions are neither up voted nor down voted, take any immediate action to rate the questions as well as answers Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 18:59
  • 4
    My two cents: Many people are just quickly seeking answers. But I upvote good questions as well.
    – neverMind9
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 20:17
  • 3
    because most questions are garbage (without a stellar answer)
    – Kevin B
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 16:53
  • 1
    This is an important question and is still a problem – I got here wondering why posting an answer doesn't automatically upvote the question? Seems like a simple mechanic that would work: if it's worth answering the question is clearly valuable. Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 18:43

56 Answers 56


I think this is a usability/motivation issue.

You can't vote up questions on the 'index' pages like you can on reddit/Digg/so on, so people aren't going to go 'that looks cool' and vote it up (or vice versa) before reading it.

IMHO this is a good thing, but...

As I see it, the 'workflow' of reading a question/answer goes like this:

  1. User opens page

  2. User reads question

    • Unless the question is abnormally good or bad, or otherwise provocative, this isn't likely to elicit any emotional response. It's just a question, carry on.
  3. User scrolls down and begins reading answers

    • As there are many answers, and good answers are rewarded by being 'accepted' and also with increased reputation, this puts the user in the mindset of 'make the answers better'

    • The emotional response behind having your answer accepted or upvoted is "I know stuff, I'm smart, I feel good." Likewise, conferring that reward on someone else is quite a powerful thing too. This provides a very strong motivation to rank and provide answers.

  4. Because of this motivation, people will put a lot of effort into writing answers (like me with this diatribe) and ranking them.

This works very well for providing and filtering good answers, but there's no such motivation behind voting for questions. For most questions, the strongest response they are likely to elicit is "I have that problem too", which while it's strong, is only going to apply to a small portion of the viewers/answerers.

While I think this is why questions aren't being voted on as much, I don't think you need to go all out to provide more motivation for it, as this would distract from the main goal of writing/ranking the answers. A simple 'nudge' to remind people to vote on questions I think will do the job without any/many adverse effects.

My suggestion for this is simply to make the voting buttons on the question proportionately larger (or make the ones by answers smaller), and possibly change the color or something.

This will draw the reader's attention to them, and send the message 'hey, while you're here, vote on the question before carrying on reading the answers'

  • 4
    Any idea why my post is community owned? I don't mind, but I thought that it had to be edited more than 4 times (it's only been edited twice, and by me)?
    – Orion Edwards
    Commented Sep 23, 2008 at 21:34
  • 13
    I read the FAQ and realised the question tripped the 'more than 30 answers' thing - didn't know about that. It's a pity, It took me a long time to write that answer.
    – Orion Edwards
    Commented Sep 25, 2008 at 2:32
  • 3
    Did you contribute less to the discussion because it's CW?
    – Gnome
    Commented Jan 3, 2010 at 14:20
  • 43
    I'm not sure if it's understood in the answer but unstated, or if I'm reading too much into it, but when you're allowed to vote on answers, you have several "competing" answers presented at once---it's easy to rank them and vote for the best/etc. In contrast, you're only allowed to vote for questions when a single one is in front of you, and different questions aren't competing against others per se, and that's the major dynamic difference from SO in reddit/digg/etc.
    – Gnome
    Commented Jan 3, 2010 at 14:25
  • 1
    @Gnome: That's exactly right. It's partially usability, but mostly a difference between what makes a "good" answer and a "good" question. Which, in this context, I suppose is a usability issue, of sorts.
    – Chris B.
    Commented Jul 3, 2010 at 15:20
  • 11
    Maybe make the vote button under the question instead of next to it, so when they finished reading it, they come across it before continuing to the answers.
    – JD Isaacks
    Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 19:42
  • 8
    I do upvote questions, but where the answer to "what is a good answer" is rather clear-cut (and an answer does show cleverness, and knowledge by the writer if it is even only partially right), for "what is a good question" the answer is much more complex. Comming up with good questions is much harder than good answers. Questions do show OP's misunderstandings and problems with the subject matter (why ask otherwise?), so they are at a very distinct disadvantage here.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 1:14
  • 3
    I think a question should have it's own reputation points which are calculate by a factor of the discussion, so when a user is searching for a question, they will know which links have the best value of discussion instead of blindly clicking and hoping they will find what they are looking for. voting for questions themselves is meaningless if you really think about it. many stupid questions have hundreds of upvotes, while other good ones have less than 10... a formula for automatic reputation will make more sense to picking the best discussion
    – vsync
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 10:01
  • Crappy, poorly written questions do not inspire "smart" users to write beautifully crafted answers, if this question hadn't been well received and if the OP had shown no thought or care, would you have spent so much time crafting this answer. Good questions should be better recognized. Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 11:57
  • // , Yeah, for a question, the answer itself is most of the reward, I guess.
    – Nathan
    Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 2:56
  • Why don't we have a system like to remind people to upvote questions whenever they upvote answers or whenever they answer? I think it would be similar to a reminder to accept answer when you upvote an answer on one of your questions
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 14:24

After tinkering way too much, I've come to the opinion that there's no great reason for down-voting a question.

Remember the old saying "There are no stupid questions" - well, I think that applies here.

  • If the question is too vague, leave a response to that effect (or vote up a comment that states that already).
  • If the question contains a typographic or syntactic problem, edit the question for clarity.
  • If the question is outright spam, or abusive, flag it as such.

But down-voting a question? What's the point? If the question is naive you can simply answer it.

Down-voting lacks any good use cases (as described above) but worse than that, it is open to abuse:

  • If you don't like the person who asked it, you might down-vote it.
  • If you don't like the topic, you might down-vote it.
  • If you don't like the religious or political beliefs of the question, you might down-vote it.

Down-voting now attracts a penalty to the down-voter's rep, that's an interesting development, but I think the simpler and more correct variation would be stop the ability to down-vote a question.

  • studies have shown that people are willing to suffer a penalty in order to inflict a greater penalty on another; down-modding can be viewed as an insult, and i agree that it is rather pointless Commented Sep 19, 2008 at 4:02
  • 51
    I think that people lay too much into down-votes. They are not a personal attack or insult. As the hover text says, a down-vote merely indicates that you do not find the question/answer helpful. Commented Oct 31, 2008 at 16:43
  • 66
    There are tons of questions on SO that simply shouldn't be here e.g. "What song were you listening to when you first figured out how to use pointers?" Most users can't close an inane question, but they can at least down-vote it.
    – Earwicker
    Commented Dec 14, 2008 at 23:05
  • 18
    Agreed. The other incredibly annoying and common occurrence - which goes against the spirit of stackoverflow is - an answer that is an indignant "why are you even doing it this way?". This is just another way of saying "don't ask questions noob". Every programming related question is valid - it doesn't matter why unless 'why' can help answer the question.
    – Justicle
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 2:49
  • 16
    @Morten I don't find 80% of the questions on SO helpful because they don't apply to things that I ever work with (does anyone work with a large % of the stuff discussed on SO?). Of the ones that DO apply to stuff I work with, some of it I know already, so it's not helpful either. Does that mean I should be voting them down? No.
    – TM.
    Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 18:23
  • I miss a comment from Christian Petersen to close the circle.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Commented Sep 27, 2009 at 8:23
  • 1
    +1 I agree.. questions should not be downvoted, but answers should be. "No such thing as a stupid question". They should be closed, migrated, or marked as duplicate but not downvoted. Commented Nov 25, 2009 at 20:32
  • 5
    @Justicle +1 I'm glad someone else has noticed that. I tend to lean toward asking really obscure questions and I find that people who don'e have the slightest clue usually give that type of answer. Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 20:35
  • 12
    I do agree that questions should be downvoted. If somebody doesn't ask a good question, downvote it to encourage them to drop it and replace it with a better question. If they stand by it and the community doesn't agree then they'll have to be willing to take a rep hit. Personally, when a question I've asked gets marked as bad-example I usually delete it and replace it with a better one. This feature complements the '5-questions-per-proposal' and cuts down on the amount of bloat included in a proposal. Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 20:41
  • 6
    I say, give some motivation to vote for questions (+1 rep). There's already a cap on how many questions you can vote for on any given proposal so why not? It's not like somebody can vote 1000 arbitrary questions all at once for easy rep. I agree completely that there is a lack of a motivating factor to vote on questions. Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 20:49
  • I agree with you. there is no sense in downvoting questions since the person who asked it needs an answer to the problem he has. maybe they can't just explain, but that's what we are here for. help each other. how come one elevate to another level if some are bringing him down? lol
    – AdorableVB
    Commented Jan 2, 2014 at 2:52
  • This post gained 103!!! Its interesting I had a similar reasoning but got -30 till now meta.stackexchange.com/questions/242916/…, why?
    – Ahmad
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 13:23
  • @Justicle so I have been on both sides of that situation. I do believe it is helpful and valid to point that out, as long as it happens in a way that leaves the person asking the question room to explain why they need it that way. Why do I believe that? Because more often than not people ask a question about what they think they need when instead they just don't know that an easier way exists to solve their core issue. Prime example are people asking how to work with WPF the same way they used to work with Windows Forms: While it is possible, it is way easier to use proper binding and MVVM. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 12:56
  • Seems reasonable to suggest +2 or something for upvoting a question after ansering it: and seems odd that persons would bother answering something they didnt consider worth upvoting for; also, persons coming on the site with a question don't have any points so they can really participate; and downvoting essentially accomplishes nothing beneficial: the lack of an upvote does the same thing, and votes provide little information directly specific re the q&a subject, if any. Thank you :)
    – M H
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 12:00
  • 1
    // , "If you don't like the religious or political beliefs of the question, you might down-vote it." This is getting way more common.
    – Nathan
    Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 2:57

I actually think this is not a problem, it is simply nature showing us how the system should be designed.

In my opinion, there is no reason to rate questions, and we should not try to "fix" it but understand why it is happening. and a possible outcome (the correct one in my opinion) is to do without the voting on questions.

Voting on answers is great, but I see no reason for the existence of question voting.

Even worse, while the voting is useless (yet harmless), the absolute "evil" baked into the system is the fact that you get reputation when your question gets voted! That is an "evil" incentive to post questions for other reasons beside the ONLY valid reason: you want to get an answer to your question.

Giving people incentive to post questions just so they can get reputation is a just as lame as Microsoft giving you "points" for searching using their search.. Motivation for searching should be getting good results. Motivation for posting Stack Overflow question is to get an answer, period.

  • 18
    IMO a vote for an unanswered question should mean either "I would also like to ask this question" or "I would have asked this question but it was already answered". The "favorite question" feature overlaps this purpose.
    – joeforker
    Commented Feb 25, 2009 at 15:28
  • 11
    I think voting on questions is okay, but it is certainly crazy that an upvote for a question gives as much rep as upvoting an answer. The reason I don't upvote questions more is that this person is getting there question answered, its own reward. Answerers get nothing but rep, so they should get upvotes and rep for their hard work. I would upvote more questions is the rep for questions upvotes was less, like 3 or 5 rep points. Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 22:25
  • 10
    I don't agree; I see good reason to allow and encourage question voting. Without it, what incentive does someone have to make sure their question is good quality? With no voting, I only need to provide the minimum information needed to solve my problem, just enough for someone to attempt to answer it. With voting, I am more likely to try to ask the perfect question which will not only help me but will also be more likely to help future visitors.
    – Jesse Webb
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 17:07
  • 1
    It might have to do with the minimum required reputation needed to be able to vote. There are people ( without assumptions, maybe many people) who don't have enough rep to vote. Perhaps a review of those who view and can vote vs. those who view and can't vote would provide more information. Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 6:56
  • -1 because motivating people for asking good questions, or better yet, improving the quality of their questions is very useful. Who cares about "ratings"? The highest-rated questions are mostly the ones you could answer by reading the manual for a second; or the "if 1+1=2 then 1+2 = ?" and similar silliness.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 21:18
  • The reward for writing good questions is getting good answers. On the other hand, I've written a few good questions about issues that no one knows the answer to. The questions get views and comments of fellow-sufferers, but they'll probably never get an answer. Should I get points for this service? Mwah. Do I deserve praise and recognition? Yes! Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 12:34

Remember the old saying "There are no stupid questions" -- well I think that applies here.

I disagree. There clearly can be, and have been, questions that are pointless or off-topic. If Stack Overflow is to stay useful as an information source and not turn into just another Digg or redit programming section, then there is a need for community policing. I think the system right now is pretty decent. By docking a small amount of reputation for every negative vote cast, it encourages people to be more careful with downmods.

I believe that votes to the answers should contribute to the questions rank as outlined here:

Answer votes should contribute to Question votes (Stackoverflow).

I agree that answer votes should count towards question score somehow. In that thread, I advocated automatically upmodding a question when you upmod an answer.

I believe that this would have the benefits that come from giving a bonus to the question based on the answer score while still giving freedom to vote the question down if necessary.

Already, I've run into situations where I have downvoted questions I felt were bad even though I upvoted the answers. I believe that any system where the answers contribute to vote score must take this sort of situation into account, and I feel that the method I proposed would be the simplest way to do it both for the users and for the site developers.

  • 1
    I would absolutely agree that probably the most useful evaluation of the usefulness of a question is the number of people who found the answers useful. Some mechanism linking the two would seem very sensible to me. Commented Apr 19, 2013 at 10:38
  • I've got to agree there are questions from obviously lazy students looking for a quick solution to some problem from professionals. Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 0:41

Also, when you start using the system, you can't vote at all. So a lot of questions and answers might be lacking in votes.

It says I must have 50 reputation in order to begin voting. I'd like to be voting up questions and answers now.

  • 3
    It annoyed me at first: but 50 rep isn't that hard, and I think it improves the quality of content in the community when you have to actually get involved to do most things :)
    – singpolyma
    Commented Dec 17, 2008 at 15:34
  • 4
    I also found this (50) somewhat daunting at first but it seems really easy to amass enough points. I started earning badges and points right after my first question, which fired me up to earn more.
    – Chris Duncombe Rae
    Commented Dec 27, 2008 at 21:47
  • 1
    now irrelevant in 2020?
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 14:26
  • 1
    Upvoting questions/ answers is possible at +15 reputation c.2020
    – M H
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 8:40

I think the "Votes" filter tab on the main page should take into account the up mods for answers in calculating a question's total score.

I would like to be voting more questions up, but I still don't have 50 reputation.

  • 2
    Upvoting questions & answers is possible with +15 reputation c.2020
    – M H
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 8:42

What about automating it (I'm a programmer ;))?
If you answer it, the question is voted up automatically. If you don't think it's worth it, you can vote it down afterwards.
Will increase reputation points inflation, but there is always a drawback.

  • 2
    Yes. I think any question worth answering deserves an upvote. Otherwise the answer should have been a comment. I would install this script, just tell me where it is...
    – NH.
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 0:06
  • Why don't we have a system like to remind people to upvote questions whenever they upvote answers or whenever they answer? I think it would be similar to a reminder to accept answer when you upvote an answer on one of your questions
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 14:26
  • This is an interesting choice. But this must be a choice that any user must define in is profile as an option. You must have a choice that indicate that any time you upvote a answer the question is also upvoted. For very bad question, you can upvote an answer but in this situtation, you must downvote the question that has been atomatically upvoted. This is possible but this must be an option !
    – schlebe
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 6:08

I think it's more natural to vote for answers rather than questions. To me, the default reason to vote for a question would be to encourage others to answer it. If it's already answered, so the thinking goes, why not just vote up the answer rather than the question?

I don't think that line of thought is the best thing for the site in the long run, but it may be a behavioral issue right now, especially as young as the site is.

  • 1
    Why don't we have a system like to remind people to upvote questions whenever they upvote answers or whenever they answer? I think it would be similar to a reminder to accept answer when you upvote an answer on one of your questions
    – BCLC
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 14:26

There is a difference between questions and answers (that sentence alone should warrant a "No s**t, Sherlock!" Badge...).

Often, I see questions that are of no personal interest (and therefore not useful) to me, so I see no reason to vote it up. But the answer to those questions maybe useful for me, by giving some additional information that I can use. Or I just think "Whoa, that is some quality content for the site".

On the other hand, when the question is useful to me (because I asked myself the same thing) or if I believe that a question is good and very useful, I +1 it, which does happen a lot more seldom than upping answers.

At the end of the day, the site is about personal benefit: Whenever an article helps me to gain something that helps me in my work, it gets +1.

  • 4
    +1 Questions have to compete with thousands of other questions within the problem domain of the site while answers only have to compete in the much smaller domain of a question. An answer may be more useful than the others, but that doesn't necessarily mean the question is more useful than others. Commented Mar 2, 2010 at 19:49

I think the reason why there is no immediate ability to upvote is to prevent people making lots of sockpuppets and upvoting themselves - enough of that and they would be able to start editing pages and pose a potential problem if there isn't a way of stopping this sort of gaming of the system.

The current situation may not be the best solution, but I do think it is better than leaving the site open to that sort of abuse.


I agree that one big reason is the +15 reputation restriction to upvote.

I understand that since this is a beta, people can come up with a handful of new questions and earn those points quickly, but when Stack Overflow gets more filled with questions, it will become more common that new people come here, search and find the answer they are looking for. And I think finding what you are looking for is totally worth the upvote.

Besides, allowing it early would encourage the good practice of searching instead of creating repeated (or re-worded) questions. I've seen many good questions so far that I would like to upvote, but I don't want to just throw a random question just to earn the reputation needed to do that.

  • 5
    The +25 rep restriction (+15 by now) cannot be an explanation for why people vote more on answers than on questions, because it applies to both, questions and answers. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 14:56
  • @AlexanderTobiasHeinrich you made me take a trip on a time machine... You're correct, it doesn't explain the vote distribution. I was using this to argue that people should be able to vote regardless of their reputation because back in 2008 having a Google, Twitter or Facebook account didn't automatically give you an OpenID, so it was more difficult to register on the site (and the reputation requirement was higher). Then Google OpenID happened later that year. RIP MyOpenID, 2006-2014. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 20:10

We are only seeing the positive votes, if we could see both +/- votes it might make more sense.


I don't understand the motivation behind down-voting a question. Down-voting an answer I get, but unless the question is offensive or spam or something (and there are different ways to deal with those), I'm not sure why you'd need to down-vote a question.

I also don't quite get why you need a +15 reputation to up-vote anything.

  • 1
    I believe the +15 restriction is a good thing, because otherwise there would be a lot more abuse of the system. People would write scripts to upvote their own Q/As or to downvote those of others. And +15 is no great obstacle. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 15:02

Why people don't vote on questions? Because most questions don't trigger the "oh, that's helpful" response that comes with a good answer. Mostly I guess because questions themselves don't contain much information.

I tend to up-vote only questions that are * well written or * where someone has taken the care to aggregate answers into the question or * which I would have had to type up, if they weren't already there.


Well, I know why I haven't voted on any questions. It's because I can't - apparently you need a reputation of 15 just to vote something else up?

While I can understand restricting the ability to vote down, a restriction on the ability to vote up seems a little to much - but this is my first day, so maybe I'm just not used to the new system yet.

  • 5
    It really doesn't take long to gain 15 or even 50 reputation, so I don't see it as a problem. I guess it weeds out people trying to play the system by signing up for multiple accounts and upvoting one question that they created themselves. Commented Jun 23, 2009 at 21:02

I upmod things that are interesting to me, that I feel I might need in a future project, that I think would be a valuable FAQ or that I think need a knowledgeable answer to a well asked question.

I can't comment on others motivation.


Why aren’t people rating questions? You need 15 reputation to vote. (Hopefully this brings me a little closer to being able to do so)

  • The reputation requirement applies equally to answers, so it cannot explain the difference in voting between questions and answers. Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 12:09

Food for thought: While the number of votes for questions is lower, the ration of up/down is relatively close since the end of the Happy, Happy! Joy, Joy! times of Beta.

Average Score of Questions vs. Answers by Month (from Aug 2009 dump)

Stack Overflow: Average Score of Questions vs. Answers by Month

  • 5
    Thanks for the graph, but considering that an answer with no votes really drags down the total I'm not sure that chart conveys what some might think, that there some balance between the votes answers gets vs questions asked). Do you have numbers for average and median votes per question vs answer? Or votes cast for the question vs total votes for all answers of that question? Upvoting your post.
    – user136460
    Commented Oct 1, 2009 at 22:52
  • What is “the ration of up/down”? Is it the same as the “Average Score”? Is it a ratio (which is what I originally thought it was, not reading carefully enough)? Is it a typo? How do we reconcile this with the statistics given in the question? Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 12:14

Remember that someone deciding not to press "up" or "down", is in itself a kind of vote.

If I see a question that's decidedly average, I'm not going to upvote it and I'm not going to downvote it.

Let's face it: most questions (at least on SO) are decidedly average.

You've interpreted that as "people not voting for questions" but that's not a fair conclusion. We do not have information on how many people voted by taking no action.

Answers, in my experience, are either useful and worth having (+1) or wrong and worth sinking (-1). An average answer is a rare thing because if you're taking the time to write an answer you're likely doing it with an explicit desire to contribute. When you write a question you're usually just trying to get your own problems solved so the effort going into making it a good question is not so inevitable.

  • 1
    I liked it better when your profile (iirc) said Upvotes are not for removing someone else's downvote. What made you take that out?
    – Mazura
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 0:46

Many questions address a very specific problem and the answers are not helpful to the casual reader. While we can still recognize the correct/helpful answers to those questions, we do not judge the question to be 'good' or 'bad'. The question just 'is'.

I'm not sure what would constitue a good question. My answer would be: a question that evokes discussion, because it draws attention to something that software engineers should investigate. However, that is just the kind of question for which this website is not intended.


After reading through all of the 51 answers posted here by the time I'm writing this, I had the feeling, that my answer wasn't here yet. Reading the answers brought me to the conclusion that there is a great consent on why to vote for an answer (i.e. promotion of good answers as well as giving credit to the users who provided them). However, there's quite an amount of different opinions on why to vote for questions or whether to vote for them at all.

Before adding my own two cents, I'd like to sum up what I've found to be the essence of most answers (apart from nuances):

People don't vote for questions, because they...

  1. ...find it more natural to vote for answers than for questions.
  2. ...see no benefit in voting on questions. Several answers to the same question are comparable amongst each other and voting for answers brings the good ones to the top. However, voting for questions is considered comparing apples and oranges - it just makes no sense.
  3. ...believe attributing reputation to someone for not knowing something is inherently wrong or that at least the amount of reputation gained through an upvoted question should be substantially smaller than that gained through an upvoted answer.

Regarding 1., there didn't seem to be much reasoning, so I'm not inclined to reason myself in order to refute these opinions.

Regarding 2.: If people vote questions up that they believe are worth asking and that are well written (SSCCE, good English, good formatting), then a questions score would be a measure of quality. This would help to bring high quality questions to the top of the search results and hide less well crafted questions. If that's not a benefit, then what?

Regarding 3., I do understand and to some extent even share this opinion. But I find it important to distinguish reputation and vote count as two completely different concepts that aim to achieve different things.

As already stated, vote count (whether on questions or on answers) is supposed to reflect quality. Reputation on the other hand, is a measure for the merit of an individual. For the individuals the reputation has value, because it is something they can brag about or that they may even be able to use when applying for a new job. Because it has value, it is a good instrument to stimulate participation.

However, the possibility of gaining reputation from asking questions somehow lowers the value of that reputation. Where's the merit in asking a question? Imagine you're looking at an answer posted by a 60k rep user and you think "Whoa", but then you look at his profile and you see that 90% of his rep came from questions. For me that makes a difference. Conversely I'm not too impressed by people who pretend to know everything by never asking any questions. It just shows off their level of narcissism.

Another problem I see with the tight coupling between votes and reputation is that questions that address more common problems will create a higher traffic than those with a very narrow domain. Questions with high traffic and their answers are more likely to get upvoted than those with low traffic. This is not a bad thing by itself, but because upvoting creates reputation I see lots of people accumulating insane amounts of reputation for explaining very basic principles of programming while others who provide sophisticated answers to quite complicated problems receive very little reputation for doing so. I'm not trying to discredit anybody or saying that reputation scores are meaningless, but because of how the system works I believe that they are distorted and not easily comparable.

Coming to an end now: It's too late for that, but if I could make a substantial change to the way SO works, I'd completely decouple votes and reputation. Instead I'd attribute some sort of credits to people depending on their level of participation on this site. These credits wouldn't show up anywhere on their public profile, but they could spend them on other users to increase their reputation.

This is only an idea, which would probably require some more thinking and field testing to actually make it work, but I believe that by decoupling votes and reputation we would see two effects:

  1. It would become clearer to users what they achieve by voting for questions (better search results) and they would be more inclined to do so, because there's no reputation change involved for the person asking. Thus we would see more questions being up- or downvoted.

  2. It would increase the comparability of reputation scores and the scores would better reflect who's actually reputable in the community.

I know that this would be a fundamental change to SO and its siblings and that there's no chance for it to ever become reality, but perhaps someone will read this before launching the next Q&A site.


I'm going to put a vote in agreement with everyone else in that the reputation required to up-vote a question might be hurting the system a bit. Personally, I tend to also up-vote questions that I think are interesting or that I would like to know the answer to as well, but that is generally when there aren't many answers to the question yet. Once there are more answers to the question I tend to up-vote the answers instead.

One thing that I think might be useful in causing more questions to be up-voted is what others have suggested in lowering the bar for when you can start up-voting questions; however, I would go so far as to say as soon as you have 10 points (i.e. one good question or answer worth of up-votes) you should be able to up-vote questions. Then the bar for up-voting the answers could be moved up a bit to say 100 points or so.

However, one thing that might be skewing things a bit is the member base. I'm not sure of the exact numbers of users; however, I have started to notice some common names in answers and it might be that the lack of a broad user base is hurting this part of the beta. I know that I personally tend to ignore questions that I know there is no way of me knowing the answer to so I wouldn't be surprised if other users might be doing the same thing. If you look at the questions with the most up-votes, they tend to either be related to the site itself (i.e. tagged with stackoverflow) or tend to be broad base fundamental topics that everyone would likely be familiar with (i.e. tagged language-agnostic).

This is definitely something that needs to be monitored, but I am quite curious to see if it starts to resolve itself a bit as the user base increases.

  1. I seems quite likely to me that both questions and answers will follow distribution that approximates a power law. I have no justification for this option, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

  2. It's likely that the set of programming questions that are seem as most relevant to everyone is a fairly small subset of all the questions that get asked, unless the community is very homogeneous.

  3. Each question is likely to have an answer that is viewed as being the best - if I view question which already has a good answer, I'm more likely to upmod the answer that add my own answer to the question.


I tend to upvote questions when the answers are generalizable, or the problem is a question whose answer has implications for a lot of other problems. I do this so that when I look at tag, say python, then the questions I see will be ones that are almost guaranteed to have relevance to *me, for many values of me.

What is question upvoting really supposed to be for?


There are lots of reasons, but I'd argue the driving factor here is that most questions are asked by low-skill / inexperienced members and most answers are given by high-skill / experienced members. Therefore, you'd expect the quality of the questions to be much less than the quality of the answers.

If I simply browse the most recent 10 questions with tag [python], here are the reputations for the question askers:

{1, 1, 615, 1, 619, 101, 41, 193, 2904, 1}

If I browse the 10 recent answers, here are the reputations for the answerers:

{58, 4160, 16, 8365, 1, 29, 33000, 154, 445000, 109000}

A good thought experiment to support this... Pick 100 answered questions at random. Make the top answerers write a question and make the question askers write an answer. I think you'd see more votes given to the questions than answers under that scenario.


I try my best to vote for anything I think is helpful. I think that seeing both up and downs (as kevin d suggested) is a good idea but I would suggest making it so that when you someone up-votes something you up-voted, you get 1 point.


I would only vote for question that makes me think: Gee, I'd like to know that too. However, I yet to run into such question. I guess it's the same for most other people. You usually reply to question others don't know, but you do.

Also, it says 'this was helpful' when you hover over a question, which does not make much sense. Answers can be helpful. Maybe something like 'this is interesting' or 'this is a good question' would be much better.

  • agree. sometimes there is a new information in the question itself, and that is only one reason when question deserves my voting :) for all other questions that I like - there is a Favorites star
    – Bogdan_Ch
    Commented Aug 5, 2009 at 17:03

It's because writing an answer, more often than not, takes more skill and requires the eloquent expression of knowledge than does posing a good question.

Examples from history - towards the end of the 19th century when physics was regarded as more or less complete, barring a couple of well-framed questions:

Q. Why doesn't an electron spiral into the nucleus of an atom?

A. See quantum mechanics. In particular, Schrödinger's equation.

Q. Why don't Maxwell's equations reconcile in a Newtonian framework?

A. Because of the relativity of time. In particular, see the Lorentz-Einstein equations.

In many instances, I've observed the contrary: an average question with a selection of excellent answers often causes anomalous question upvoting.

But fundamentally, voting is the expression of opinion of individuals. In this respect this answer is pure conjecture.


There are no good questions, only good answers.

Maybe the quality of a question comes from the sum how many people answered it and how many people rated the answers?

  • This was my thought too. I don't feel grateful that someone asked a question, I feel grateful that someone answered it! I'm not saying a good question is not important, It's just not The Thing That Solved My Problem so I don't think about it. Perhaps every upvote to an answer should give the question 1/5 of an upvote to represent the question's helpfulness?
    – Bill K
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 0:04

I interact with SO (and the related sites) in two entirely different modes. In the first mode, I specifically come to SO. I am looking for questions to answer or looking to see if there have been responses for me. (I guess in theory I could come to ask a question, but I never do that.) In that mode I vote on many answers but few questions. I try to remember to upvote a question I answer, but I don't always do it.

In the second mode I have a problem. I am at a search engine, or have been enlightened and started at SO, and I am searching. When I find the answer to my problem, I upvote some of the answers, and I ALWAYS upvote the question. Because someone took the time to ask this ages ago, I get the answer now, not in a few minutes (or, gasp, hours) from now. My upvote is my thankyou.

Assuming others are like me, I would expect to see that answer voting has increased as Google and Bing rankings for the site have improved. Can anyone confirm that?

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