There have been several meta posts that received net downvotes, including:

My impression is that these downvotes were meant to express disagreement or a "no" answer, but I don't think that's the right way to use downvotes here. In fact, downvoting questions that you disagree with is arguably a bit rude.

The What is meta? How does it work? section of the Help Center states:

Like normal Stack Exchange sites, Meta allows members to vote on questions and answers. For most posts, votes reflect the perceived usefulness: well-written, well-reasoned, well-researched posts tend to get more attention and more upvotes. Highly-voted and frequently-linked posts may become part of the community-curated FAQ or codified as part of the site’s Help pages.

In addition, note the text for the tooltips on upvotes and downvotes:

Upvote: This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear

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

This text is there for a reason, and represents the meaning of these votes. Indeed, this issue has been discussed at length at Stack Overflow meta, and the text above represents the current consensus. See this answer on Stack Overflow meta, for example.

The problem with downvoting questions that you disagree with is that it discourages good discussions. People are less likely to post questions when they end up downvoted, so downvoting good questions to express a "no" answer sends the wrong message.

So the bottom line is that a vote on meta should mean roughly the same thing that it does on the regular site: it pertains to whether the post is clear and meaningful, and has the potential to generate a good discussion. Upvote questions that seem constructive, and downvote questions that seem unclear or off-topic. But please do not downvote good questions that you happen to disagree with.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice post Jim! Thank you very much for bringing this up. $\endgroup$ – user230 Apr 6 '14 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ I believe my upvote on this post has been applied correctly. :-) $\endgroup$ – Brendan W. Sullivan Apr 6 '14 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ I think, for answers it is sometimes appropriate to vote if you agree or disagree (like in this question :)) $\endgroup$ – Markus Klein Apr 7 '14 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ But do I see it correctly that downvotes on answers are ok to signal dissent on meta? $\endgroup$ – Roland Apr 7 '14 at 9:13
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's fine to upvote/downvote answers based on agreement. $\endgroup$ – Jim Belk Apr 7 '14 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Jim, you raised some interesting points worth hearing out. I removed the pseudo-polling answers posted below that forced an agree/disagree vote on the issue. It is better leave a topic to broader discussion rather than letting someone's pre-written 'answers' control all sides of the conversation. A meta discussion gives everyone a voice and folks can express agreement/disagreement (and comment) based on what people are actually saying rather than forcing any actions items to this pseudo-polling format. Polling is generally not a good substitute for discussion $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Apr 7 '14 at 13:58

For voting on meta-questions, I think that the following guidelines are reasonable, which provide different voting modes for meta questions and meta answers.

  • Upvote the question if it is well-posed, shows research and effort. This should be done regardless of the personal opinion of the poster and you. If you think that this is a topic worth discussing and deserves attention, the question deserves an upvote.
  • Downvote a question if it is not well-posed or doesn't show research and/or effort.

Posts on meta posts are usually to define or visualize the consensus of the user base. This way, it seems reasonable that answers in meta questions can be used as a poll. I think that we should use this option.

  • The following voting recommendation applies unless the OP of the question specified the intentions of the question otherwise:
  • Upvote an answer on a meta question if you agree with it.
  • Downvote an answer on a meta question if you do not agree with it.

In order to make this work well, people who post a question and have an opinion of their own on this topic, are advised to post their opinion as an answer to their own question. This makes sense because their opinion is acutally an answer to the question they are asking, and not part of the question.

As a final note: I write this answer not to substitute discussion, but to have some quantitative feedback on this question. The guidelines from this post should apply to this post, so downvoting if you disagree is appreciated, even and especially if you don't think that downvoting is the best way to show dissent.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is good general advice, and I upvoted it. However, I would like to point out that if I would just have downvoted it without further explication this would not tell much since there are many (and opposing!) ways in which one could in principle disagree. In my opinion downvoting to disagree most of the time only works in combination with some explication why or in which way one disagrees. Having given such an explication the downvote also stops to be that relevant. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 7 '14 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ @quid: I see your point how an explanation really helps to give context to a downvote and thereby allows discussion and development. But I don't think that the downvote itself loses its relevance completely: When you look at the question and its answers, you get a good, fast picture of the public opinion based on the votes of the answers to a possibly controversial question. $\endgroup$ – Roland Apr 7 '14 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ Mainly, I just wanted to highlight that only downvoting can be quite ambigous for certain answers. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 7 '14 at 23:57

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