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I've noticed that many questions about the 2020 US elections are attracting many downvotes and sometimes close votes, and I'm not the only person who has noticed as the meta question New poster - getting downvotes but not sure why shows.

Some examples posed by me are Do the 2020 votes for Trump and Biden add up to more than the total number of votes made? and Is there less than a one in a quadrillion chance of Biden winning states where Trump held the early lead? but I've seen similar patterns in claims by others such as Did a “Drop and Roll” phenomena expose that the 2020 election was stolen?. There are some badly posed questions on this topic with clear partizan intent and I expect those to attract close and down-votes. But neutrally posed questions should be fine here and an opportunity to record clear, definitive refutations of some of the wild claims.

Indeed many of the specific questions address public claims that are wild or extraordinarily implausible. But they are public and widespread claims that are precisely the kind of questions skeptics.SE should be addressing.

My assumption is that the right way to approach votes on questions is whether the question is well-posed. If you disagree with the claim being made the right way is to answer the claim with evidence or vote on the answers not to downvote the question. Sure, if the question is badly posed, it deserves a downvote, but surely if it accurately reports a common claim–even of the insane sort that seem to have plagued social media during this election–that doesn't make it a bad question; it just makes it a question deserving a strong, clear refutation in an answer. The 'drop and roll' question referenced above seems to me a reasonable question (the claim is ridiculous, but there is nothing wrong with the way the question about it is posed) but has a current score of -8 (4 up 12 down). It also has a very good answer solidly rebutting the claim.

Have I misunderstood the expected standards and purposes of voting on questions? If I haven't, is there some benefit in reminding people of why you should downvote questions? I am worried that we will lose the opportunity to record solid refutations of some of the more insane claims being made in public about this election.

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    The problem is that many of these claims are being made with no evidence at all and are just attempts to confuse things, cause chaos with information and for some people to make a profit off it all. – Joe W Dec 20 '20 at 20:54
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    In general people are getting tired of the easily disprovable claims that are coming out one after the other. – Joe W Dec 20 '20 at 20:55
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    I edited your recent question, and I think it's good now. For me, I wanted to downvote because the title was jumping straight to "fraud" when we can just look at the numbers proposed in the claim and verify. There was a bit of hyperbole that bothered me. "Is any part of the claim remotely credible" and labeling the claimants broadly as "Trump supporters" I feel like invites off-topic commentary, and divisive "them/us" kind of thinking. There was some commentary already, which I deleted. – fredsbend Dec 20 '20 at 21:50
  • @fredsbend your edits were good and improved the question. But the new question is still attracting downvotes that don't seem warranted if votes are intended to signify the merits of the question and not the claim it challenges. – matt_black Dec 21 '20 at 16:15
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It ultimately depends on internal motivations so we can never know for sure, but from what I've gathered from the comments on these election questions (and my own personal opinion), I believe that users are using their voting privileges as intended.

From the help center page "Why is voting important?":

Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information. The more that people vote on a post, the more certain future visitors can be of the quality of information contained within that post...

In short, if a question/answer is informational, shows some research effort, or if users just simply find it interesting, then users are encouraged to upvote it, and otherwise they are encouraged to downvote it. This is all a pretty general description of votes, and I'm sure each site has some extra criteria (for example, here on Skeptics you might downvote a question for not having a notable claim)

Just to use your recent question as an example (since I assume it led to this question), we can guess at the reasons users downvoted it like the help center page recommends:

  • Was it informational?
    • The only information a question on Skeptics really needs is a notable claim and its source, so I doubt anyone downvoted because of this (I feel like this category applies more to answers anyway, so it's not too relevant)
  • Did it show research effort?
    • Your original question had links to the source of the claim, quotes of the claim, and some of your own questions about whether the numbers in the claim were realistic. What it didn't show is any indication that you bothered to try answer your own questions. Did you try looking up the numbers of registered voters, or even if someone else already debunked this? If so, we'd have no way of knowing from your question, so users could assume you were just trying to broadcast the claim rather than get an answer.
  • Is it interesting?
    • This is the 15th question about election fraud since Nov. 3rd, and although the exact claims aren't duplicates they mostly follow the same pattern of "does this [dodgy math or video snippet] finally prove election fraud?". The ones in the first couple weeks are pretty highly upvoted, and were during a time when there were a ton of new and exciting claims flying around. But now we're at the end of the second month of these same claims, and users here may just simply think that another "was there fraud" question isn't that interesting.

Obviously this is a polarizing topic so some of the downvotes could be for partisan reasons, and there's a lot of flimsy misinformation being peddled so these questions will always be an acceptable topic here.

However, I don't think that the downvotes on these questions are an indication that users are either mistakenly or deliberately misusing their voting privilege. Rather, I think it just means that at least a handful of users don't think the questions are providing much value to the site, and the downvotes are becoming more visible since fewer and fewer users are upvoting these questions as time goes on.


As a side note, I went through the 15 election questions to get an idea of what "attracting many downvotes" could mean. Here are the vote totals, with questions roughly grouped by weeks since the election:

Week 1
Up  Down
 31 0  
 41 5
156 9  

Weekend of week 1
U   D
47  2  
10  4
 9  3
71  3  

Week 2
 6  4  
13  8
 9  5 

Week 3 
4   12  (note: original question was just a Youtube link, causing a lot of downvotes)

Weeks 5-7
15  3 
 1  2  
 6  3 
 3  6  

Total
422 upvotes, 69 downvotes (roughly 6 upvotes per downvote)
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  • My assumption on this site more than most other SE sites is that the content of the question and the answers are very separate. Too much analysis of the claim in the question is problematic. So your objection that I should have tried to answer the claim within the question seems wrong (though the original version hinted at possible anomalies before being edited to a make it more neutral). I think analysis of the claim is for answers not questions. – matt_black Dec 22 '20 at 11:36
  • I think the key point in this is that there are already so many questions asking about voter fraud around sketchy theories that is attracting the bad attention. – Joe W Dec 22 '20 at 19:05
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    @matt_black: That point isn't saying that you should've tried to answer the claim, it's saying that you should've shown that you even looked up anything about it one way or the other. If a downvoter thought that you were just trying to spread a claim, then even something as simple as saying "I tried looking up the number of registered voters but couldn't find a good source" would go a long way to showing sincerity. – Giter Dec 22 '20 at 21:25
  • @matt_black: Regardless, the specifics of these points isn't what's important. It seemed like the core of your question is that you believed that users may be misusing their voting power for one reason or another, and I just wanted to provide some example reasons why these downvotes don't seem out of the ordinary or otherwise going against what Skeptics/StackExchange recommends voting be used for. – Giter Dec 22 '20 at 21:31

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