President Donald Trump is not the only presidential subject of scrutiny at PolitiFact. Just like we have been tracking Trump’s promises since the 2016 campaign, we also tallied eight years’ worth of President Barack Obama’s pledges.
A key difference is that Obama made far more promises than Trump: We tracked 506 Obama campaign promises during his first term and 102 Trump promises. Obama released far more policy and position papers in his 2008 run, the source of many of his promises.
Trump and Obama are similar in that they both enjoyed a unified government during their first two years: Democrats controlled Congress and the White House in 2009 and 2010, just as Republicans did in 2017 and 2018.
Let’s compare how much each president was able to accomplish on his promises two years in.
Almost half of Trump’s promises from the 2016 campaign have been blocked or dropped. PolitiFact rated 18 percent of Trump’s promises as Broken and 27 percent as Stalled, meaning no significant action has been achieved.
In comparison, about a quarter of Obama’s promises were blocked or dropped. Two years in, Obama had broken 7 percent of his promises, and 15 percent were Stalled. That means the proportion of Obama’s promises that ran into significant obstacles was less than half the proportion of Trump’s.
Trump has kept 17 percent of his promises so far. Obama had kept 26 percent of his two years in. And 27 percent of Trump’s promises are In the Works, which means he’s taken some action but it’s too soon to tell the outcome, while 44 percent of Obama’s promises were in the same stage then.
Trump achieved a Compromise on 11 percent of his promises. In this category, Trump achieved a higher result than Obama, with 8 percent compromises at this point.
Here’s a chart showing the complete breakdown:
The biggest Obama accomplishment during his first two years was the health care overhaul: he signed into law the Affordable Care Act in March 2010. The law enshrined protection of pre-existing conditions, mandated that everyone get coverage and gave subsidies and tax breaks to people who needed help buying it. (One of Trump’s broken promises was to repeal it.)
Trump’s tax cuts were one of the legislative highlights of his presidency. In December 2017, Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Trump had promised in the campaign to give everyone a tax break, to lower the business rate to 15 percent and to eliminate the estate tax. The end result was that some (but not all) people got a tax break, the business rate was reduced to 21 percent, and the estate tax was reduced but not eliminated. We rated these as compromises.
Obama promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250,000. Those tax cuts were extended for another two years, so we rated the promise Broken. (He turned it to a Compromise by the end of his presidency.) He did, however, get a two-year extension of the tax cuts for the middle class, as he had promised, plus some payroll tax relief and an extension of unemployment benefits.
On immigration, both saw significant roadblocks at the halfway mark.
Obama promised to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But the DREAM Act fizzled during the lame duck session.
Immigration also formed one of Trump’s biggest campaign promises: to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. He failed to sell Democrats and even some Republicans on his border wall. The result? The longest government shutdown in history. We rated Trump’s promise Stalled.
PolitiFact, The Obama scorecard, Jan. 18, 2011
PolitiFact, At halfway mark, Donald Trump's campaign promises hit roadblocks, Jan. 16, 2019
PolitiFact, PolitiFact rates Donald Trump’s first year, Jan. 16, 2018
PolitiFact, The Obama halftime report, Jan. 17, 2011