What is the etiquette for downvoted questions?

For example, I have noticed many questions recently with down votes because one ore more of the MSE Community had issues with it.

However, I often notice that people answer the questions.

I have stayed away from those since answering defeats the purpose and message that the downvoters were trying to send.

Is there a preference by the MSE Community? Should we ignore the down votes and answer those too?

I prefer consistency (although I realize that is difficult in an open forum).

Thank you.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You might take an interest in the reversal badge. $\endgroup$
    – dtldarek
    Mar 22, 2013 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


The downvoting means that some users thought the question was ill posed or ill suited to the site.

If you disagree with those users, you have no obligation to refrain from answering the question. It's as much your right to think the question is worth answering as it's the right of those other users to think the question was bad.

Actually, I think your understanding of the "purpose and message" of downvotes is off. The message of a downvote is simply a warning to other users that it might not be worth their time to read this question and attempt to answer it. If you want to send the message that this question should not receive any answer, the logical way to express that would not be to downvote the question, but to vote to close. (The effect of closing the question is exactly to prevent answers from being submitted).

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    $\begingroup$ There are times when the objections are quite clear IMO. Even when those are very clear, people are still answering, but I have no issue with answering and will do as such. $\endgroup$
    – Amzoti
    Mar 21, 2013 at 0:53

In my view downvoting of a question should reflect a poor formulation, possibly one arising from a confused understanding of the problem, and normally I would request clarification of the question before downvoting it (unless someone else's request has already been ignored for a substantial amount of time). This overlaps with circumstances that call for closing a question, but is not a "proper subset".

While a closed question cannot be answered (and it seems a little inconsistent to both answer and vote to close), answering a confused or otherwise poorly phrased question may serve to elicit or provide the clarification needed to make the question better. So I would not take the downvoting of questions as a request not to answer them, and in this respect I agree with Henning's answer.

Of course this is not to say every downvoted question deserves your efforts! If you are like me, there's only so much time to spend composing useful answers, and starting from a considerately formulated question seems more auspicious.


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