One annoying problem I've experienced in the past is the following: I downvote something that I think is bad but that is not obviously bad (e.g. it is not spam). Exactly one other user upvotes in response, but no more. What I strongly suspect is going on is that the user who upvotes is just canceling out my downvote and that, if there hadn't been a downvote, that user would not have upvoted. But the end result here is that
- The user who posted the thing I downvoted experiences a net gain in reputation, and
- A casual user only sees a vote total of 0 instead of the actual voting history, which is 1 downvote and 1 upvote, and this is very different.
This disincentivizes me from downvoting something that I think is bad but that is not obviously bad, which I think is suboptimal.
The basic problem here is that vote totals are misleading on a question which has both upvotes and downvotes. 0 votes is very different from 3 upvotes and 3 downvotes, which is in turn very different from 10 upvotes and 10 downvotes. For that reason, I would strongly prefer if upvotes and downvotes were always both displayed (e.g. on the main page).