As I see it, the most common causes for down-voting a question should be:

  1. The question is completely incomprehensible, or makes no sense ("Are all prime numbers green?");
  2. The question has a trivial answer and really doesn't belong in MathOverflow.

I often see posts (not my own, but there it happens too sometimes) that get down-voted for no apparent reasons: The question is understandable, and it is non-trivial, and I'm sure in many cases the down-voter wouldn't be able to provide an answer.

How about this: Users can only down-vote a question if

  • at the same time they provide an answer showing why the question is really easy, or
  • they can point out where there is an ambiguity, or worse, complete incomprehensibility in the question.

But they can't down-vote a question any more "just because they don't like it".

(Feel free to down-vote this suggestion :-))

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think that (down-votes) would be a good tag for this question. (But I do not have sufficient rep to edit posts on meta, which is the reason why I am making this suggestion in a comment.) $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2016 at 12:17
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ The particular problem with answering the easy questions is that it rewards behaviour we don't want to encourage. If your question can be answered by spending two minutes on Wikipedia, or trying the first two or three standard examples in the area, then it shouldn't have got as far as MO in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Barber
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ @BenBarber Then instead of down-voting you could explain that question is too easy for MO and delete the question (or vote to delete). I like Dominic suggestion. I would even go further and remove down-voting completely. $\endgroup$
    – user21230
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 8:21

1 Answer 1


Other reasons to downvote a question is if one doesn't think it demonstrates sufficient research effort, or isn't deemed to be useful. In fact, the question-downvote tooltip says this explicitly:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

These are of course subjective metrics, and can at times seem to be done at a whim without any real justification. But this does not mean that the voter didn't have a reason for their action. (I also see posts upvoted for reasons that totally escape me, but I'll stop well short of demanding that the upvoters explain themselves.)

Voting (up and down) is a personal decision, and unless there is strong evidence to suggest that it's being done for reasons beyond a post's content (e.g., serial voting a specific user), we should presume that the voter did so in good faith.

Furthermore, suggesting (unenforceable) restrictions is a fool's errand.


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