Pants on fireHillary Clinton and Donald Trump are making hundreds of promises should they be elected in November.

You likely know Trump’s most prominent campaign pledge: He’ll build a wall along the U.S. southern border and make Mexico pay for it. “I’d build it very nicely,” he adds. “I’m very good at building things.”

But Trump is promising much more than that. He has promised to ban, at least temporarily, some Muslims from entering the country; defund Planned Parenthood until the organization stops performing abortions; erase the trade deficit; bring back manufacturing jobs; and get tough with China.

Meanwhile, Clinton promises to spend $50 billion improving U.S. infrastructure and install 500 million solar panels across the country. She has promised not to deport children living in the country, guarantee 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave and increase the federal minimum wage.

Tucked in those pledges, and the hundreds of other promises the campaigns have made, are reasons to support one candidate or the other.

But once the election is over and we’re celebrating or souring on President Trump or President Clinton, how do we track if our new leader keeps their word?

That’s where PolitiFact comes in.

With the help of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, we’re creating a “promising” tracking system so voters will know if the person they elected kept the promises made on the election trail.

PolitiFact is the largest fact-checking organization in the country with affiliates in 18 states. We won the Pulitzer Prize for our coverage of the 2008 presidential election and have a full-time staff of 10 split between Washington, D.C., and St. Petersburg, Florida.

Every day, reporters and researchers from PolitiFact and its partner news organizations examine statements made by political candidates. We research their statements, then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False and False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get our lowest rating, Pants on Fire.

We have experience tracking campaign promises, too. In 2008, we created the “Obameter” to track the record of President Barack Obama. Over eight years and two campaigns, we’ve been tracking more than 530 of Obama’s campaign promises and seeing what became of them.

To date, we’ve found that Obama has kept 45 percent of his promises, compared to 22 percent that he broke. The remainder either resulted in a compromise or are still in the works.

The core of this new project is to reimagine how the promise tracker works, and ask ourselves some simple but fundamental questions:

  • What makes a promise?
  • How do we properly track or grade a promise?
  • How do we compare the relative importance of promises?

By Inauguration Day 2017, we will publish a publicly available database of the new president’s campaign promises. We’ll then spend the next four years monitoring them. Each promise will have its own landing page, which will include updates on the new commander-in-chief’s progress.

In addition, the technology and ratings system used to track the new president’s promises will be made available to journalists around the country so they may track the campaign promises of their state and local elected leaders. As a result, not only will we know if Trump keeps his word to build a wall, but we’ll know if your city council kept its promise to build a park.

And we’ll know whom to trust when the next election rolls around.

Aaron Sharockman  
Institutional fellow


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