There are questions that are fine that they don't in themselves deserve negative votes. However, sometimes such posts get unusually high votes.

I understand that the up-vote and down-vote criterion is to vote the question that shows research effort, has good quality and few other things.

Is it ethical to down-vote if you think a question is not bad enough to deserve a down-vote by itself but also that you do not like it receiving more votes than you feel it deserves?

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    $\begingroup$ Whether ethical or not, it will generate pointless controversy, anger, and frustration if we can go by experience. $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2013 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ I "revenge downvote" answers: If an answer is mediocre and should be ignored but for some reason has a $+1$, I'll downvote it. That is, if it is only mediocre and not necessarily wrong, so it is not the kind of question that should have a negative score, I will downvote it if (and only if) it had a plus score (so my $-1$ will go unnoticed). This is especially effective if there is only one answer to a question and this answer is mediocre but with a $+1$ score: removing the $+1$ will place the question back on the "unanswered" pile. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Jun 17, 2013 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ It is possible, that if someone sees that there is a downvote and they do not know the reason for the downvote, they can upvote the question in order to "balance" your downvote. Pity upvotes were discussed at meta, for example here: A minor gripe about upvoting things that have been downvoted. $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2013 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729 I have read somewhere that you should decide if and how to vote on a post independent from the net score it has achieved at present. So downvoting a decent not wrong post just because you think its present score is to high, is quite a destructive attitude which is unnecessary, since things can also be sorted out by upvoting other posts you like better. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 17, 2013 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton When an answer that misses the point of the question gets someone's misguided upvote, the question goes off the Unanswered list. This is a problem that can be solved by returning the score of the answer to $0$. Upvoting better posts elsewhere does not solve the problem. $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2013 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Mediocre, not decent. (Also, my votes are for me to decide what to do with. There is no rule governing when you can and cannot vote - other than repeatedly voting on someone, which the system will catch.) $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Jun 18, 2013 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729: Yes, your votes are yours to use (mostly) as you please. However, an answer can be both mediocre and correct, and in that case upvoting (or providing) a better answer makes far more sense. $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2013 at 6:26

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't consider it unethical, but I personally do consider it somewhat improper to vote on questions/answers for reasons other than their content. And the voting behaviour of other users is a criterion quite separate from the content of any post.

(Of course, the general rule is that, with certain exceptions, you are free to vote as you please.)

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    $\begingroup$ I consider it entirely proper to give a compensatory upvote to a question or answer that in my view has been unfairly downvoted. This happens much more often with questions than with answers. Examples include questions that seem to have been downvoted only because they are very easy or because the OP admittedly had no clue, and newcomers’ questions that have seem to have been downvoted only because they MathJax wasn’t used and it took a little work to read the question. (No, it’s not reasonable to expect everyone to know the basics of $\LaTeX$ or to pick it up instantly from the FAQ.) $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2013 at 6:19

Moving my comment to an answer: not unethical, just ineffective. Using some of your $40$ votes/day to downvote too-popular questions won't make any real difference, and there are so many constructive™ things one could be doing on the site instead.

Try to use your votes where they matter the most: moving the score of good posts from $0$ to $1$, and that of bad posts from $0$ to $−1$. The score of $0$ is the least informative of all: for all we know, the post could be really good or totally wrong, but never read by someone able to tell. Accordingly, SE software does not believe that a question has been answered until there's an answer with positive score. And there are way too many correct answers with zero score: see this post for some ways of finding them.

As an illustration, I include the current distribution of posts by score. Let's bring the zero columns down.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I consider all downvotes on the main site a waste: comments are far more informative, both to the poster and to those subsequently reading the post. Then again, I consider it quite foolish for any user to judge questions and answers on the main site by their net vote tallies. $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2013 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ where did you get that distribution @ˈjuː.zɚ79365 ? $\endgroup$
    – BraQuiet
    Sep 16, 2018 at 16:20

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