If I downvote someone's answer with detail in the comment as to why, then why is my reputation deducted ( by -1). I am helping the community. Reputation is hard to earn, and if it's deducted every time I downvote, then I'd just stop downvoting altogether, I suppose. Downvoting helps the answerer to know they lack something in their answer, or have answered wrong. It helps OP (who doesn't know if it's right or wrong) to see which is right and which is wrong, if it's the case.

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    $\begingroup$ Related older posts on this meta: -1 for downvote? and Why does the person who is downvoting an answer get a downvote himself? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ I think that it's reasonable for there to be some price to pay for a downvote simply to discourage gratuitous downvoting. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ I think reputation is not so hard to earn. The deduction for downvoting can seem like a high cost at first, but with +10 for each upvote on an answer you write, you can downvote 10 times for each time someone upvotes you. So earning reputation is only hard if you have a hard time writing upvoted answers. Moreover, over time you accumulate a collection of answers which randomly attract upvotes from new viewers, allowing for a steady rep increase even if you don't answer any more questions. So I would try to ignore the penalty, and continue voting in ways that help the site. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ Downvoting doesn't help unless one explains why? $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkMcClure: If only there was something in place to discourage gratuitous upvoting. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Shobhit: Do pay attention to the rate. As much as I've been active in the past and content to downvote, I've only managed to rake up 884 downvotes on questions and answers that haven't been deleted. (if you downvote an answer and it gets deleted, your reputation is refunded) If you got a -1 for every downvote I have, you'd still have plenty of reputation left over. And one doesn't even get -1 when downvoting a question. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ Thank u all for your views, satisfied. $\endgroup$
    – Shobhit
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ You worry too much. I myself, have lost over 400 rep this year by placing bounties, so the -1 from downvotes is nothing. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ @copper.hat I don't think that's at all true; it lets the asker see how their questions are perceived by others, and the person who is downvoted can figure out the problem on their own. Is an upvote only helpful if it is explained? Moreover, there are some serious disincentives for explaining downvotes (I've received retaliatory downvotes on more occasions than I can count). $\endgroup$
    – xxxxxxxxx
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ @MorganRodgers: I can only speak from my own reactions, but I do not view up votes and down votes as 'symmetric'. Just like having someone compliment my boat's paint job is nice, it is far less useful than someone telling me that there is a leak in my boat. While knowing that there is a leak is useful, telling me where the leak is has far greater utility because I can fix it (hopefully). Having to reverse engineer someone's vote seems pointless. (Unfortunately, the only 'boat' I own is a BIC Electric Rock :-).) $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlMummert Just for the recodrd, reputation is pretty hard to earn for casual users like me who don't know much about math. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ It is a reasonable mechanism. Downvoting can be from good-will as well from ill-will .. Downvoting costs only -1 so only users with high reputation which receive sometimes more than 100 points daily, can make this operation with easy hand, but they are experienced and responsible users of MSE. Btw what is learning in seeing that you have been downvoted without any comment? Better is to give tips how the answer should be improved and wait some time, day or two.. $\endgroup$
    – Widawensen
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ I notice that a lot of people say "we need a penalty to prevent people going nuts" and others say "it isn't that much of a loss, don't worry". It can't be both, people! $\endgroup$
    – The Count
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ One way to to address this would be to link the downvoting and commenting. If one downvotes and leaves a comment, no reputation change would happen. If downvoting happens without a feedback, one point (or more?) would be the price. I guess this shouldn't be hard to implement with a pop-up or something similar. Dunno if it would work in practice, though. $\endgroup$
    – user361949
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ I second @TheCount opinion that you can't have it both ways. If you penalize voting down, then that promotes bad answers. It should be possible to vote down without punishment, at least I propose that it should be possible to a moderate extent,so just trying to find the right balance. I also find it "morally wrong" and unacceptable to punish users for voting a wrong answer down, this sends a wrong message to voters. I would personally rather comment/point out what is wrong with an answer without downvoting,but when I feel I need to cast a downvote, I do not understand why I should be punished. $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 2:13

4 Answers 4


It helps keep people from getting carried away with downvoting. If you didn't lose any points from it, you could downvote a lot of stuff (and you can kinda see that here on Meta).

That $-1$ point is enough for most people to step back and ask themselves: do I really want to take a hit for this?

These points are not tied to money or anything of material value, but people do take them seriously, and there's even strategizing that goes along with it.

Suppose for example that you answer a question with two other answers. Alice's answer has 7 upvotes, your answer 6 and my answer has 0 (based on a true story). Then you get an upvote but Alice's answer is still first because she answered a few minutes before you for some reason or other.

If you downvote Alice's answer, it might not be because her answer is technically wrong, it could be that you want to get ahead of Alice, and presumably catch more upvotes than you would if you stayed in the middle of the pack.

I doubt you would actually do that, but I believe it does happen in general. Why else would there be a Sportsmanship badge?

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    $\begingroup$ You know that answers with the same score are sorted randomly and not depending on the time of the answer, right? See also: How are answers sorted? (Of course, it's different if you choose different ordering of answers - active or oldest instead of votes - but from your answer it seems that you are talking about the situation when a user views answers ordered by votes/score.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin I actually did not know that, I need to read that link you posted. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ Thank u for your answer. Understood. $\endgroup$
    – Shobhit
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I prefer the competition. If I feel another answer of equal quality with mine, I will upvote it to help it catch up, and hopefully users will not focus on me as much. I do not care if one upvote will end up making an answer get 10 more upvotes than mine in the long run because the competition is healthy (and just because I type faster should not mean I get attention from users who upvote, leave, and never see the second answer to be posted) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 2:00
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    $\begingroup$ And yes, promote the sportsmanship badge XD $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 2:13
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    $\begingroup$ Clicking is generally much easier that to write some improving comment, so it is also mechanism inhibiting clicking.. $\endgroup$
    – Widawensen
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertSoupe I understood your point. But tell me if suppose 2 guys have answered a question, and one among those is INCORRECT! Then if the other person who gave the answer correctly, he points out to the other guy his mistake in a comment and downvotes him, then what is the point in getting reputation downvoted? $\endgroup$
    – user422112
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilJones That's a very good point, no pun intended. It's a balancing act. I suppose you could have an arbiter who reviews a downvoter's comment and refunds the point if he determines it was a good faith downvote. But if it was up to me, the added complexity of the arbiter would not be worthwhile enough to implement that system. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertSoupe While I agree that one should avoid the added complexity of an arbiter (it won't work), I believe there is much that could be done in finding the right balance between: (i) The amount of reputation that a user gains when their answer is upvoted, (ii) the amount of reputation that a user loses when their answer is downvoted, (iii) the amount of reputation that a user loses when they downvote someone else's answer. I propose that any user could cast one downvote per day with no punishment math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/30935/… $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 2:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Mirko I think you meant "penalty," not "punishment." The latter carries the connotation that it's for something that is wrong regardless, while the former suggests something that is generally discouraged but might sometimes be necessary. As to your point that "there is much that could be done in finding the right balance," well, I disagree, but if you post in your own answer to this question some of that much that could be done, you might convince me to agree with you. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertSoupe I stand corrected, "penalty" is the right term (even if I may think of it as a punishment, without reason). As to what could be done, I posted some suggestions in my question, a link provided in my previous comment. I may consider posting some of that here as an answer. $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 5:43

The $-1$ reputation is to deter serial or competitive down voting.

For a scenario, say you have an answer with 4 up votes, and someone else has an answer with 3. You're afraid of theirs coming ahead of yours, so you down vote, even though it's a valid answer. This is not what down voting is for.

You can see the effects of not having the $-1$ penalty on meta, many things are down voted much more, and the average score of an answer is much lower than on the normal site.

The $-1$ is also for people who are down voting for the write reason to think before they answer and see if they really want to down vote an answer, or flag it instead, or even just leave it alone.

IMHO, it's there for a good reason, and is a critical piece of the voting system.

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    $\begingroup$ Ok, understood. $\endgroup$
    – Shobhit
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 1:55
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    $\begingroup$ If it were me, I'd be afraid that my answer would get too far ahead, so instead, upvote the other answer if it is good so that you may have better competition. :-) Besides, if I spend hundreds of rep on bounties, why should I even worry about such trivial things? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ @SimplyBeautifulArt you wouldn't, because you're high enough reputation to know how to make the right decisions on voting. That's why it doesn't increase as your rep does $\endgroup$
    – Travis
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ The case of competitive down voting was quite a problem in the beginning of Stack Overflow, so much that it got a name: Slowest Cheater in the East. $\endgroup$
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 19:00

There are some points I would like to make:

  • 1 unit of rep is nothing. What could you possibly buy with a penny? And if you dropped the penny and knew, would you bother to pick it up? Most Americans probably wouldn't.

  • Not everyone who votes will help the community. We have things like serial voting, or as the other answers have described, using votes to change the position of answers. It's a psychological game trying to earn the most upvotes.

  • The price is meant to help deter less worthy downvotes. It pressures you to think twice about whether or not something is less than worthy.

  • To emphasize the first point: 1 rep is quite literally nothing in the grand scheme of things. Take, for example, the fact that within about 1 year, I have willingly given up over 1.3k rep for bounties, many of which are not even on my own questions, but on other people's questions!

Not to mention, such rep is easily replaceable (well, at least for me). If you are helpful to the community via answers and questions, you will easily find that making up 1 rep, or even +200 rep in a single day is never impossible. (of course, don't forget to dedicate time to other activities)

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    $\begingroup$ I feel tempted to downvote here for abuse of the word "literally". If 1 rep were literally nothing, then $1=0$ and all of mathematics collapses ... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ @HenningMakholm Oh no, you are right. In the grand scheme of math, I suppose $1\ne0$ is an important thing XD $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ As long as we're being technical: Mathematics can still be done on a ring where $1=0$ (the so-called zero ring or trivial ring ), it's just that that ring is maybe not particularly interesting compared to something like the ring of integers. So while it's true that only working on such a ring would greatly impact mathematics, I'm not sure it's fair to say that "all of mathematics" would collapse. $\endgroup$
    – MM8
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ I think 125 reps are useful but beyond that ever unit of rep gained is just a decor. $\endgroup$
    – user312097
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ @A---B Well, we do MSE recreationally, do we not? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @SimplyBeautifulArt That can be done without "rep wars". can't it be ? $\endgroup$
    – user312097
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @A---B Oh, I was meaning that "ever[y] unit of rep gained is just a decor" extends pretty much to most of the site. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @SimplyBeautifulArt I blame it shamelessly on my keyboard. $\endgroup$
    – user312097
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @SimplyBeautifulArt If I drop/spot a penny I would pick it (and regularly do ... but I am not an American, so that does not invalidate your observation). Good you are so generous, but why should I be like you, and why should I be punished for casting downvotes? What is "the grand scheme of things" and wouldn't 200K rep be also "literally nothing" there? I feel that taking away points for downvoting is inherently wrong, and one should look for a different solution to serial downvoting problem. math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/30935/… $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 1:51

I posted a duplicate of this question, and then a version in which I propose an answer. It was suggested (in comments to one of the answers here) that I post an answer here. I just copy some of the points I made in my question Progressive deduction in rep for downvoting.

Proposal: A downvoter would not lose rep if they cast only one downvote per day.

Any subsequent downvotes (by the same downvoter, the same day) would result in the loss of one reputation point.

(Added details, measuring time 24 hours starts when that first downvote is cast. Subsequent votes that were cast would remain penalized, if the first downvote is retracted later, but the user could use this retracted first downvote on another answer without penalty, within the original 24 hour limit. If the answer with the downvote is deleted, then the downvote is lost and could not be reused without penalty on another question.)

Variations: No penalty for first downvote, but 2 point penalty for the second downvote within 24 hours (and one point per each subsequent downvote). Yet another variaton: One point reward for first downvote, two point penalty for second, and one point for subsequent downvotes.

Finding the right balance between several (at least three) things:
(i) The amount of reputation that a user gains when their answer is upvoted,
(ii) the amount of reputation that a user loses when their answer is downvoted,
(iii) the amount of reputation that a user loses when they downvote someone else's answer.

(Similar balance could be sought for up or downvotes on questions, but I prefer to focus on answers here.)

In my opinion 10 points for upvoted answer is good, it is significant, as it should be, and I have never had any issues with that. (At present, 10 points upvote for a question, I was more comfortable with 5 points, but again this is another topic, I would prefer to stay away from that for the moment.)

The amount of 2 points loss (for the answerer) for a downvoted answer is inadequate and insufficient, in my opinion. It promotes quick and wrong answers, as the gain from an upvote far outweighs the loss from a downvote. There are plenty of users, at least that is my impression, that would post inadequate answers, and plenty of users that would vote up such answers without reading them carefully and making sure that (1) they are correct, and (2) they are relevant and do answer the question asked. (Such rushed answering and upvoting may happen soon after a question is posted, and before it goes down the stack and may then be forgotten.) Such an imbalance between 10 points for an upvote, 2 points for a downvote promotes, in my opinion, a proliferation of poor answers. (Let me also add that a user who posted an answer with three upvotes and one downvote may simply choose, consciously and comfortably, to do nothing. The most likely result of this is that they would keep their net gain of 28 points, the question and answer will be forgotten (and never deleted), and they would have no incentive whatsoever to either correct or delete their wrong answer.)

I find that there is an imbalance between the one point reputation deduction for a user who downvotes an answer, and two points reputation deduction for a user whose answer is downvoted. (Assuming I cite these numbers correctly.) One may argue all this is insignificant (why bother discussing one or two points), but on the other hand to me one point is quite significant in comparison to two points. If I downvote someone else's answer, they would shrug it off (if they already got a few upvotes, deserved or not), and I would lose one point, which is quite comparable to two points, and I would not have an easy way to make up for this point (unlike the user with the wrong answer). So, I would be punishing myself, losing a point, and the user with the wrong answer will be laughing at me, even if they lost two points, because their net gain was (at least) 8 points.

My answer: I would not bother to downvote. Presumably "others" (more responsible or braver than me) would downvote anyway, and as a result that answer would eventually sink. Looks like "others" may not be as stingy as I am on casting downvotes, so my concerns may safely be ignored. But, I am not convinced. I do find that there is a gross imbalance, as indicated above! I wonder what would happen if: (*) there was no punishment for the user who casts a downvote, or at least no punishment for just one downvote in 24 hours, and (**) a downvote would bring a more substantial loss of points to (the user with) the downvoted answer.


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