The Truth in Politics, Campaign Promises

By: Maria Ecrivain – Contributing AOJ Journalist

Almost seems like an oxymoron, “The truth in politics, campaign promises”. The reality is Presidential hopefuls make promises to their voter base to motivate the base to vote for them.  After the election, the President is then routinely judged on has he or she (we will use the pronoun of he for ease throughout the rest of the article) kept those campaign promises and how hard have they worked to accomplish them. It is often difficult for the average person to know all that a President has accomplished towards meeting campaign promises. Once in office, Presidents often make more promises to the country throughout their Presidency. Statistically, Presidents do keep some of their promises, but to what degree?

Historically, Presidents have followed through on 75% of their promises. What does that say for those who voted them into office? Overall, Americans can expect at least some of the Presidents campaign promises to be made.

Did the President lie to the voters if he did not accomplish some of his campaign promises? Here is where we start to split hairs and get into that dreaded grey area. Clearly, a President can not accomplish all that he has promised his voters, but what were his intentions. Did he make those promises knowing he had no intention of keeping them or did circumstances change and following through on some promises became difficult to fulfill? Can we truly know if campaign promises were made just to garner votes or as a genuine promise to the voters? This is how a more practical evaluation can be made; if the President has worked to genuinely accomplish the promises made, then the voters can take some comfort knowing that the campaign promises were genuinely made.

The President cannot follow through on his campaign promises if he does not have the support of his fellow party members in the House and Senate. On the larger campaign items, it is reasonable to expect that the party members are going to support many of the President’s campaign objectives. Here is where things get a little dicey; those same party members must also support their States agenda and at times the desired accomplishments of both are not compatible.

The ironic part is that to accomplish anything of lasting value in Washington, it requires teamwork. Yet ultimately the President is held accountable by the voters. (Note the term voters, if as an American you did not vote, then you can hardly be surprised if the things you wanted to happen do not occur because you did not help elect the people that could make that happen.) How can anything be accomplished with so many variables and successes dependent on the cooperation of so many different interests? Our political system is not designed to make things happen quickly, it is designed so that change is slow and deliberate. This was wisely done so that the overall impact of any changes could be clearly thought out and the repercussions would be debated prior to their implementation. All the while, the President is ultimately held accountable for creating an environment where this will occur.


Boyle, L. (1985). Promises and Performance: Presidential Campaigns as Policy Predictors. By Michael G. Krukones. (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1984. Pp. 158. $22.75, cloth; $11.50, paper.). American Political Science Review, 79(3), 847-848. doi:10.2307/1956866

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Maria Ecrivain

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