Yes. We had that issue at Motor Vehicle.
Other sites have the same. It's one of the things that seems to plague sites in beta and is a hump they need to get over among other things.
Here is a message from @jonericson in the motor vehicle meta site that was posted by him regarding our end of year review and graduation that kicked off massive change in our community.
Basically, he stated we were almost ready to get out of beta BUT we didn't have enough mid level users participating to have a good election with good turnout based on prior elections for moderators.
So, the regulars put together a plan to help gain more user loyalty to the site through voting. It's a very odd thing and I don't want to claim to understand the psychology of how all of this works but there is something to getting rewarded for your efforts and welcoming new users as well.
I believe there are two things at the foundation level that have sprouted made a difference, a domino effect, if you will.
More voting in general, especially on questions. You will notice that there are badges for voting. Vox Populi, use all of your votes in one day. Civic Duty, vote 300 or more times. Electorate, vote on 600 questions and 25% or more of total votes are on questions, notice the emphasis on 25% or more of the total votes need to be on questions. Sportsmanship, Up vote 100 answers on questions where an answer of yours has a positive score, WHAT? vote against yourself? Get out!. Suffrage, Use 30 votes in one day. As well as others for first upvote, first downvote, etc.
Here is my point
The site is geared to rewarding users to vote. If that's the case then going out and getting those badges is the sites reward for voting. It's the dangled carrot, if you will.
We started voting and communicating with new users. We welcomed them, gave them tour and chat links. Used the chat more, just lurked if need be. Left more comments to new users and (did I say this?) voted.
The results since that meta post by @jonericson have been phenomenal. In fact I might say that they are unbelievable. Several things have happened as a result.
1. More Traffic
Search engines look for changes on pages. It signifies activity. If you develop your UI (user interface) to interact with search engines according to their standards the search engine will see the delta (change) in a page from it's last visit. If it sees the change, it changes the way the FQDN (fully qualified domain name, example: www.domainname.com) gets ranked in it's logic. The more changes to pages in the FQDN the more activity it detects (it's looking for fresh content) and the higher ranking you get when someone searches for words that are in your site.
So, our traffic has skyrocketed. I put a claim out there in the comment of 35%. I went and looked at the site stats and it's probably more like 25%. Our overall went from 29,000 visits per day average to 52,000 visits last Sunday. It will level out over the week to about 35K to 39K, that's been the trend with a tradition huge bump in traffic on Sunday. Our new visits last Sunday were up by 5,000 visits. New IP addresses, unregistered users, possible new participants, which is the goal. New users, more questions, more content, more voting, more comments, more. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The simple upvote changes the webpage of that question and reflects activity. That in turn, increases the ranking of the site. Lots of daily voting = lots of daily change = more traffic = more users = a more beneficial site to the world = more content......and the washing machine of positive energy eventually takes over and the site goes on autopilot the way that ServerFault and Security have (amongst others).
2. More Interpersonal Interaction
We had a new user come on about a week ago. I'll call him Joe. We welcomed Joe, he is young and awkward. He is smart. He is curious. We pulled him into chat by inviting him on a couple of early questions. We welcomed him. He responded positively to positive input. He was holding back on posts until then. Awkward young man behavior. Sitting in the shadows and lurking and coming out to look around a bit and then, back against the wall. A wallflower. he suddenly surged out there with questions. MANY of them. Then others that had been lurking came out of the woodwork. Then long time high rep users that had NEVER asked a question started to ask questions where they knew the answer. Example: Some high rep users started to ask motorcycle questions that they knew I would answer. I started to ask engine theory questions that I knew they could answer. All of the content is beneficial to the site. Our questions went from 8.6 per day to 14.1 questions per day as of today's reports.
It doesn't take much. Some voting, some interaction. These fundamentals can have a huge impact. I've watched this unfold and so have other beta sites where their users come over to us and vica versa. They are begin to employ some of these tactics and it's working. Honestly, it's working the way it was designed to work. If there is a badge out there for performing an action, it's there for a reason. We should all, as SE users, see that and do the things that the badges are urging us to do. If your not interested in badges but interested in the success of the site, then simply vote. If someone writes a great question or answer, thank them for their contribution or just say, "Great question, look forward to seeing the replies." It makes a human being feel good. When human beings feel good doing something they do more of it. It's all really very simple when you think about and the magic people behind the curtain at SE have done an excellent job of tapping into it by designing to help us all be successful. If we use them, the betas will graduate to full fledged site. I don't think the state of this site is as bad as @ppoggio states. The voting is wreck but that can be turned around so quickly, it can be in the past within a week or so, it really doesn't take much. It's just rewarding people and thanking them for their contribution to the site by voting and leaving a kind/nice comment, especially to new users.
The young guy Joe that I mentioned. 1000 rep in two weeks. He's super immersed. He interacts with others the way we interacted with him. Friendly and welcoming. Helpfull. Voting, asking and answering. In other words, contributing.....and many others have inherited his behavior. It's becoming viral in our community. A positive infection that's beginning to take on a life of it's own. I feel we have overcome a crux and the future of the site has gone from looking nominal to phenomenal in a couple of weeks.
I will leave you with this meta post that @jonericson sent us in chat. It was a wake up call for us while we were having a voting debate where some users had such high voting standards that hardly voted at all. This pushed them over the edge.
Vote Early, Vote Often
With all that, the best to all of you. I hope I have shared something worthy and valuable to your meta site. Good luck.