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I have two questions on the main site right now (both of which are unfortunately duplicates.) I noticed I'm getting a lot of downvotes on both questions. Is there a flaw in my questions that I'm missing, that I need to fix for future questions, or are my questions being downvoted simply because they're duplicates? To avoid further damage, should I delete those questions?

Here is the question. The other one's now deleted.

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    $\begingroup$ if you want people to analyze the specific questions you're talking about, then link to them in your question post. $\endgroup$
    – starball
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 23:29

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Do they? I wouldn't know. Votes are anonymous and don't require explanation. That's by design. People are free to vote however they wish as long as it's not serial voting ("voting on people rather than posts") / fraudulent voting (voting with multiple accounts).

Can they? (Can people downvote questions for being duplicates?) As explained above, yes. And it's even part of the guidance on using question-downvotes. Just look at the voting tooltip:

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

If your question is really a duplicate, then the question is why you couldn't find the dup-target when you searched (or did you not search?).

If the reason you couldn't find the existing question is that it didn't contain the search terms you searched for, then either consider editing the existing one in a way that organically adds those search terms to the question post, or if you feel that that would be too invasive, just keep your duplicate. That's one of the main reasons we keep some duplicates around: to be sign-posts (see /help/duplicates).


Note: I'm personally fine with people "re-asking an existing question" in the following scenarios:

  • The new question is asked in a way that makes it fundamentally different. Ex. by changing the scope of the question
  • The existing question has already received answers, and the new question reframes the existing one in a new way that may be more useful, while likely conflicting with the existing post's author's intent

Looking at some of the Q&A here, I've mulled over doing that myself in some cases, but just haven't had enough motivation to do so (yet?)

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Yes, I do believe people downvote posts simply for being duplicate. It's especially true right now when it's generally not that hard to search through the existing questions to see if there is a duplicate.

As for what you should do with the questions, it depends on how useful the duplicate may be. If you expect a lot of people to land on your question from a search in the future rather than the duplicate question, then it can be helpful to keep the duplicate around as a guidepost. Otherwise, deleting it is an acceptable course of action (but keep in mind that deleted questions still count towards question bans, so you do not want to have a lot of negative-score deleted questions.)

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If you hover over the downvote button, it has a tooltip which describes what a downvote means:

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

People who downvote duplicates just for being duplicates may consider that if a duplicate question is asked, then the asker has showed insufficient research effort ─ otherwise they would have found the duplicate in their research. They might also consider that duplicate questions are not useful because they don't add value to the site.

(To be clear, these people do not include me. I believe failing to find the original question does not imply there wasn't any effort, and that whether or not a duplicate question is useful depends on whether it might help others find the original by searching, e.g. because it describes the problem in a different way using different terms.)

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