Is it really a good idea for upvotes to give +10 points and downvotes only -2? I've noticed that downvoting posts often produces "sympathy" upvotes by other users seeking to maintain the vote total at a certain level. I have no problem with this "strategic" (vs. "sincere") voting, which seems inevitable to me given human voting behavior in other contexts. However, the combination of asymmetry with the tendency toward strategic voting produces two undesirable side effects:

(1) I often suspect that if I downvote something, there is a large enough chance that someone else will upvote it that the expected net point gain will be positive, so I won't downvote and therefore my information about the quality of the post is never taken into account.

(2) Controversial posts get a large net point gain, which is bad enough by itself, and may even create an incentive to stir up controversy.

I understand the bias toward positivity (I'm not arguing that the reputation of the average user should be zero) but it seems like enough of a positive bias is already present in people's voting behavior that the +10/-2 asymmetry is redundant at best, even ignoring the side effects mentioned above.

What do other people think about this asymmetry, and is there anything we can do to change it?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This seems related to some extent: A minor gripe about upvoting things that have been downvoted $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:29
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ There is a declined feature request meta.SO with some extensive discussions: Should the weight of downvotes be increased? $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "What do other people think about this asymmetry?" -- my thoughts are along the lines of "whatever". "Is there anything we can do to change it?" -- no. $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Martin Thanks for the link. I guess it would be impossible (or too much trouble, anyway) to get it implemented. I am having a hard time understanding the arguments against it, though. It also seems strange to me that no one (as far as I see) is arguing for complete symmetry, and -10 for downvotes is described as a "nuclear option". The vast majority of people are capable of consistently posting things that get more upvotes than downvotes, so why not symmetry? How frustrating. $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user79365 Thanks for the information. $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:41
  • $\begingroup$ @TrevorWilson What is the ratio at MO? Was this discussed in the recent meta thread about migration to SE? (I guess you are active there, correct me if I am wrong.) $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:43
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak It is the same: +10/-2. I haven't been on meta over there for a while, so I don't know the answer to your second question. $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:47
  • $\begingroup$ @TrevorWilson I supposed that if the weight of downvotes were different, it would have been discussed when talking about the migration; that's why I asked that question. Since they are the same on both sites, this was probably not an issue there. (Of course, it is possible that there was a separate discussion on this at meta.MO.) $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:55
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ My sense is opposite of yours: It seems to me that when my vote is first, and is a downvote, other people pile on with additional downvotes where they might otherwise have done nothing. $\endgroup$
    – MJD
    Jun 5, 2013 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ I tend to view upvotes and downvotes as two entirely different things (just as a pat on the back differs from a slap in the face, its not just a sign difference). Perhaps downvotes could be re-marketed as 'concerns' and both numbers (upvotes & concerns) displayed? I would like that downvotes have a reason attached. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Jun 11, 2013 at 5:56

1 Answer 1


People get very upset over inconsequential amounts of downvotes, sometimes a single downvote is enough to trigger a meta post or at least a comment. I don't really want to know by how much this would increase if downvotes would actually remove an amount of reputation that mattered.

The main purpose of downvotes is not to remove the reputation from the target user, but to indicate by the post score that the post itself has some issue. There are so many factors that distort the absolute reputation value, the minor effect of downvotes is a rather unimportant one in my experience.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think that for most people, the symbolic effect of receiving a downvote is much more unpleasant than the effect on reputation anyway, so I would guess that the proposed feature would not affect such people much. However, there might be a few pathological users who make many low quality posts and are immune to the psychological effects of downvotes, and I think it would be nice if they received the appropriate reputation for this, rather than having their reputation inflated merely by casual sympathy upvotes. $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 6:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Most users with so many low quality posts that this would actually make a difference should already meet the criteria for a suspension due to low-quality contributions. There are sometimes cases where I don't think the downvotes are enough, but those cases can be handled by the moderators individually in my opinion. $\endgroup$
    – user9733
    Jun 5, 2013 at 7:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Trevor, I think the risk is overstated. Note that if an answer has negative score, people with sufficient rep can vote for its deletion. Note also that for questions, the discrepancy is not so much, since upvotes only give 5 rep, and that downvoting bad questions does not cost the downvoter any rep. $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2013 at 15:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ -(-1),for loss aversion :-) $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2013 at 2:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .