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Has President Obama kept his campaign promises?

By J.B. Wogan
Published on Monday, November 5th, 2012 at 10:54 a.m.

Four years ago, Barack Obama made an extraordinary number of campaign promises -- 508 -- on everything from taxes to whaling. We've been tracking each one and have rated them on our Obameter, a five-level scale from Stalled to Promise Kept.

With the 2012 campaign winding down, we thought it was a good time for a status report. We've rated 38 percent as Kept, 16 percent Compromise and 17 percent Broken. Another 20 percent are still rated In the Works and 9 percent are Stalled.

(We have two promises not rated because they were conditional on the nation having a major natural disaster, which did not occur in Obama's first three and a half years. We expect to address them in the next month after we assess the administration's response to Hurricane Sandy.)

Browse the Obameter and you'll find a wide range of promises, from big to small, from broad policy goals to wonky specifics. Our Obameter database includes high-profile commitments to kill Osama bin Laden (Kept), pass immigration reform (Broken) and sign a universal health care bill (Kept).

Not every promise grabbed national headlines. For instance, Obama swore to give tax breaks to artists for donating their work (Broken); he said he would strengthen international rules against commercial whaling (Compromise); and he promised to double funding for a reverse commuting program to help inner city residents travel to work in the suburbs (Broken).

The Obameter database reflects Obama’s priorities in the 2008 campaign. He made 52 pledges about health care and 52 about energy. Foreign policy and education also ranked high, with 32 and 31 promises, respectively. Those four categories account for a third of Obama’s promises.

Of the four, Obama did best on education, where he earned a Promise Kept for 65 percent of those with a final rating. On health care, energy and foreign policy, we gave him a Promise Kept for roughly half of those with final ratings.

Obama scored well on vows about space, the arts and veterans, but poorly on immigration, taxes and workers.

Of course, not all promises are created equal. Some matter more to voters than others. That’s why we also tracked Obama’s performance on his most significant promises, such as withdrawing troops from Iraq (Kept), strengthening security along the Southwest border (Compromise) and implementing a new cap-and-trade system to reduce climate change (Broken).

Here’s a tally of our Top 25 Obameter promises:

Rating Top 25 Obameter Promises % of Total
Kept 9 36%
Compromise 4 16%
Broken 7 28%
In the Works 5 20%
Total 25 100%
 



We’ve reached a final rating for 360 promises, about 71 percent of the total. We'll be updating the rest before the inauguration of the next president on Jan. 21.

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Researchers: J.B. Wogan

Names in this article: Barack Obama

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