Some/many users seem to quickly downvote a question once they see that it's been marked as either a duplicate or a possible duplicate; is that the recommended course of action - to downvote a question simply because it's a duplicate question?

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    users can and should downvote for whatever reason they want. SE rolls back abusive downvotes; everything else is fair game. Downvotes are anonymous for a reason. – KutuluMike Jul 16 '16 at 1:33
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    @KutuluMike - can != should. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 16 '16 at 22:11
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    Relevant MSE post – Null Jul 16 '16 at 23:59
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    Regardless of whether you downvote it or not the most meaningful and helpful thing to do is vote to close as a duplicate. So no matter how you vote at least don't forget to do that. – Jason C Jul 17 '16 at 1:34

While voting is anonymous and users are of course free to vote however they like...

Users are not necessarily encouraged to downvote questions purely because they are duplicates.

The help center explains the reasons for downvoting:

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.

Duplicates can be a good thing in a way, so questions do not become 'bad' questions simply because they are duplicates. A question is not necessarily poorly researched just because it's a duplicate, as finding the duplicate before asking can be very tricky due to the different possible wordings of the same question. Once a question is marked as a duplicate, "often they are left as a signpost pointing people towards the canonical answer to that question" (source), so in that way, they help future users search for and find the information they are looking for. For more on why duplicates can be a good thing, see Is it encouraged to delete your own questions if they have possible duplicates? and Rules for a duplicate post deletion

The two most upvoted answers (scores 44 and 19 respectively) from the MSE question Should we downvote duplicates? both indicate that, while still a perfectly acceptable thing to do, downvoting duplicates isn't the most helpful course of action:

I have several times asked a question that the "similar questions" search did not identify that I later found to be a duplicate of an existing question when someone pointed it out. I think, then, in the general case that a downvote is probably not appropriate because it is entirely possible that the user did search and did not find a question like their own in the list. The best solution is merely to close it with the reference to the existing question unless the question is bad in some other respect.


Downvotes are not meant to be used as punishment. That being said, they are your votes, and you should use them as you see fit. (Leaving a comment telling the user to search harder next time will probably be more helpful than a downvote.)


  1. You're free to vote how you choose
  2. Leaving a comment is much more helpful than downvoting a duplicate

To clarify: Obviously users are free to vote how they please, I am simply trying to make a helpful recommendation on voting on duplicates that is clear and accessible. The site recommends/encourages users to downvote non-useful things and to +1 useful things, and as the site's consensus is that dupes can be useful, they might not deserve a downvote just for being a dupe. Of course, it's up to each user to decide how they want to vote.

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    +1, though I'm pretty sure I've made this same point at least once before here on SFF meta. (Would it be ironic if this quesiton got closed as a duplicate? :-) ) – Rand al'Thor Jul 16 '16 at 1:32
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    @Randal'Thor - ... and then downvoted for being a duplicate :) Because Meta rolls that way – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 16 '16 at 3:49
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    One could easily argue that the fact that a poster didn't search our own site is a good measure of "poorly researched". – phantom42 Jul 16 '16 at 5:07
  • @phantom42 "A question is not necessarily poorly researched just because it's a duplicate, as finding the duplicate before asking can be very tricky due to the different possible wordings of the same question." Yes, if they didn't even search at all, users might downvote. Some users indeed searched for the question and found nothing before asking it themselves. Dupes make it easier to find the original. Obviously the original wasn't terribly easy to find, since they didn't find it. With a closed dupe, there's now a whole new collection of searchable terms floating around the Internet – RedCaio Jul 16 '16 at 5:22
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    I'm not saying dupes aren't useful or that they should be downvoted. But many dupes that come through are not looked for by the OP, evidenced by the fact that the question titles being almost identical, to the point that the suggestion engine absolutely showed it to them. – phantom42 Jul 16 '16 at 12:47
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    And isn't it a little premature to immediately start telling people to use your meta answer as a policy and that people should go around telling others how to vote before there's a clear consensus that this should be policy? – phantom42 Jul 16 '16 at 12:49
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    @phantom42 It's been the community consensus for a while, it just didn't have it's own discussion. You can see it in the linked meta discussions: i.e. "you[r dupe] just made the question (and its answer) much easier to find. This is a good thing." (score=25), so if its a good thing, it shouldn't be downvoted as bad. – RedCaio Jul 16 '16 at 18:26
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    To judge whether or not a duplicate is "poorly researched" or not, I search the site with a few of the keywords (which I usually have to do anyway to close as a dupe). I do this as part of my research when asking my own questions, so I expect others to do the same. If the dupe target is easily found because the keywords match very closely, I downvote. Otherwise, I generally don't vote -- though if the dupe is asked/phrased much better than the original I'll upvote. – Null Jul 16 '16 at 20:17

There are two ways to answer this question:

Users Should Downvote However They Want

Downvoting on Stack Exchange is anonymous for a reason. As long as a user is not abusively downvoting (that is, they are targeting a specific user, and not the questions themselves), SE has always quite openly asserted that users can downvote whatever and whenever and why ever they want.

The Help Center gives reasons why you might want to downvote, or why most people downvote, or what downvotes were invented for. But those are always just that: guidelines. (If we're going to start demanding everyone follow the guidelines to the letter, I have some scope and tagging discussions we can revisit...)

In the end, trying to tell users how to downvote is always wrong.

Duplicate Questions Are Usually Downvote Worthy

The bigger issue is that you're basically arguing against a strawman here. You somehow claim to know, for a fact, that users are downvoting a duplicate questions because they think they're supposed to. To repeat a previous point: downvotes are anonymous. You have no idea why someone's doing it. Even if they leave an explicit comment, they could be lying.

The vast majority of the time, duplicate questions deserve downvotes. The fact that the question has been asked and answered before by definition means that the answer could have been found with sufficient research. It's merely a matter of each user's personal judgement if they feel the level of research was justified or not.

A duplicate question that is 1) well written and 2) asked in a new, original, or unique way can stand on it's own as a decent question. Most dupes are not that. Most can be found in a trivial amount of time... most of them can be found by the software which suggests them when you vote to close.

People are 100% within their right to downvote those duplicates if they think the original question was "easy enough" to find. And they are 100% within their rights to define "easy enough" however they want.

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    I never said anything about forcing users to do anything. I never even said to never -1 a dupe. What I did say is that the site recommends/encourages users to -1 non-useful things and to +1 useful things, and as the site's consensus is that dupes are useful, they don't deserve a -1 just for being a dupe. (they might deserve a -1 for other reasons, but not just because they're a dupe). – RedCaio Jul 16 '16 at 18:29
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    "useful" is not the same as "good". Just because some duplicate questions are useful as guideposts for future users does not mean we want people to keep asking them at will. You are conflating "deleting" a question with "downvoting" it. – KutuluMike Jul 16 '16 at 19:00
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    You say you're not forcing it, @redcaio, but you're going around on posts and telling it to people as though its policy. – phantom42 Jul 16 '16 at 21:26
  • @phantom42 Null, Rand, and this meta post agree with me - "being a duplicate is not in itself a reason to downvote". I merely post it as a note in case users thought dupe=bad. btw, KutuluMike and I are saying the same thing; we both agree some dupes deserve DVs, just not all of them. – RedCaio Jul 16 '16 at 22:48
  • @RedCaio Erm, I wouldn't say I exactly agree with you. It is not necessary for users to DV duplicates (i.e. users aren't somehow obligated to do so), but Mike is right in that users are free to DV for (nearly) whatever reason they want -- and their sole reason could be simply that it's a duplicate. In other words, being a duplicate may be a reason in itself to DV for some users. I personally don't DV a question merely because it's a duplicate, but I can't speak for every user on this site. – Null Jul 16 '16 at 23:56
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    I did not say being a duplicate is in itself a reason to downvote. I said that many duplicates are poorly researched. And while you and Mike agree that being a dupe is not necessarily downvote worthy in and of itself, you differ on one key point: you are actively telling people how not/to vote, whereas Mike says that voting is up to the user's discretion. – phantom42 Jul 17 '16 at 0:38
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    @RedCaio Interesting that you quote part of the answer on the old meta question that you like, but ignore the following portion: "each person decides according to their conscience whether a post is sufficiently lacking to warrant a downvote." – phantom42 Jul 17 '16 at 5:54
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    @Phantom42 interesting? maybe. Telling? No. It goes without saying that users can do what they want. I even edited my post to make sure it didn't sound like I was telling users how they should vote (I replaced "should" with "encouraged" etc.) I'm actually fairly puzzled by your comments (& KutuluMike's post) as I never even thought anyone could interpret my post that way. Let me say it again: vote how you want (duh), and for anyone who cares, the site recommendation is to not -1 just because it's a dupe. :) I'm sorry if it ever seemed like I was telling people they had to vote a certain way. – RedCaio Jul 17 '16 at 9:44
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    "+1 PSA: Don't -1 just because it's a duplicate - that's not how voting works" Voting works however I damn well want it to work so long as I'm not abusing the system. If I believe that being a dupe is enough to warrant a downvote, it's how voting works for me. – phantom42 Jul 17 '16 at 13:49
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    @Phantom42 there's no need to become angry or resort to unkind words or profanity. Again, I'm very sorry if it ever seemed like I was telling people they had to vote a certain way. That was never my intention. I was already planning on removing the comments that said "PSA: Don't -1 just because it's a duplicate ..." when I get home later on, I realize now how that might sound. I will reword my post as well. Please understand that I respect users' right to vote how they want, and that I respect your viewpoint. I sincerely hope you can similarly respect mine and that you have a wonderful day :) – RedCaio Jul 17 '16 at 22:44
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    Sorry, -1. There's a reason why dupe-closed questions are considered 'better' by the system than other types of closed questions, and why users are encouraged not to delete questions just because they're dupes. When I dupe-close a new user's question, I often leave a comment along the lines of "please don't be discouraged because your question has been closed; it's still a good question." We don't want to drive away people who ask good questions just because someone else asked the question previously. [cont...] – Rand al'Thor Jul 23 '16 at 14:11
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    [...cont] As well as Jason's answer which I just linked to, I've also previously covered this issue myself on meta: see parts of this answer and this one. The most important point is that a duplicate of a good question is - usually - still a good question. – Rand al'Thor Jul 23 '16 at 14:11

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