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Here is why:

It is probably backed by insufficient data but it is possible

a) People often vote up a post because it was already upvoted by others. b) More importantly, people downvote some posts which have already been downvoted. The first piece of thought which hits me when I see a downvoted post is " What is wrong with it?".

Upvotes and downvotes have a natural place here; to show those answers first which have received the most number of votes and to eventually dim those posts which have received multiple downvotes. However, if the number of downvotes or upvotes is not displayed it will hopefully encourage people to read the posts more carefully before downvoting.

Please chime in with your opinion!

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To confuse the issue even more, sometimes people upvote a post for little more reason than it was downvoted!

But votes have another natural place: to give a ranking. Higher vote totals have some correlation with better answers.

By sorting on vote totals, it lets a user quickly zoom in on what are most likely to be the best answers to a question. (but this could be done without showing them)

By seeing the actual totals, a user who isn't knowledgeable enough to judge for him gains the information of the community's opinion on the answer.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd amend to "higher vote totals have some correlation with answers being well-liked" myself... it can happen that better answers are not very highly upvoted due to a number of confounding factors. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Apr 28 '13 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ You wrote: sometimes people upvote a post for little more reason than it was downvoted; I'll add a link to an older discussion on this: A minor gripe about upvoting things that have been downvoted $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Apr 28 '13 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl, thanks for the answer. $\endgroup$ – Richard Nash Apr 29 '13 at 7:06

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