Sorting out the truth in politics


PolitiFact rates Donald Trump’s first year

Much of Donald Trump’s presidency has been defined by provocative tweets and gloves-off fights. But Trump has used the power of the presidency to move the country toward the overarching vision he ran on as a candidate — build the wall, repeal Obamacare, grow the economy.

Trump has pushed forward with his agenda, fundamentally reshaping immigration policy through his executive power, ending Obamacare’s penalty for not having insurance, and signing into law tax cuts for many Americans.

In other cases, Trump has found that changing America is not as easy as rolling out campaign slogans about rebuilding America or starting a trade war with China. There has been no infrastructure bill yet, and Trump has been noticeably more amiable with China than he signaled on the campaign trail.


That’s the big picture. PolitiFact does, however, track 101 specific campaign promises Trump made to carry out his vision during the 2016 campaign. Trump has had an active first year on the Trump-O-Meter, though the fate of many initiatives has not been determined.

As it turns out, the man who loves to say he’s in control is not in control of a lot of these promises.

Trump has kept his biggest pledges when he could act on his own. Change requiring action from Congress has come slower or not at all. His actions have met skepticism from the judiciary, which derailed his attempt to block nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries his first week in office.

PolitiFact has rated nine Trump pledges Promise Kept, with another six promises rated Compromise. That means Trump achieved complete or partial success on 15 percent of his promises during his first year in office.

Another big chunk of Trump’s promises — 47 promises, or about 46 percent — have been rated In the Works, which means he’s taken some action to keep them, but it’s too soon to tell the final outcome.

PolitiFact has rated seven promises as Broken, and another 32 as Stalled, meaning no significant action has been achieved. That means close to 40 percent of Trump’s promises have run into obstacles during his first year.

Trump’s kept promises include freezing regulations, pulling the United States out of a major climate agreement, nominating a conservative Supreme Court justice from a list he released during the campaign, and keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention center open.

His broken promises include declaring China a currency manipulator and releasing his tax returns. On China, Trump completely backtracked, most likely because China isn’t currently manipulating its currency, and Trump needs China’s help to deal with North Korea. On taxes, Trump said he would release his returns once an audit was complete; now he says he doesn’t plan to release them while in office.

PolitiFact found a range of outcomes on the things Trump promised that exemplify his unique sensibility: Refuse to take vacations (Stalled) or a salary (In the Works). Sue the women who accused him of sexual misconduct (Promise Broken). Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton (Stalled).

Some of these promises were never practical in the first place, while others were more logistically challenging than expected.

The promises that were easy to keep, he kept.

Tracking 101 promises that Trump made during his campaign

Hover over a dot for details on the promise. Click to read the report.

Promise Kept


Promise Broken


In the Works

Source: PolitiFact API



Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via Associated Press
President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 28, 2017. Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan listen.

Working with Congress

Trump’s Republican Party holds both chambers of Congress, but it wasn’t especially productive at passing legislation to help him enact his agenda. Its major achievement was sending Trump a tax bill to sign that made progress on his promises to lower taxes.

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 promises Compromise

One of the principles of our rating system is that we rate campaign promises based on outcomes, not intentions. So a promise unfulfilled is a Promise Broken. We applied the same standard to former President Barack Obama in rating his promises from 2009 to 2017.

Among Trump’s tax promises, we counted one Promise Kept, four Compromise, and four Promise Brokens. The broken promises that Trump didn’t get: child care tax credits, a reduction in the number of brackets, an end to the alternative minimum tax and the closing of a loophole on carried interest income.

Congress also failed Trump when it came to repealing Obamacare. In a high-profile defeat, three Republican senators turned against a repeal-and-replace bill, along with all of the Democrats. Trump has since claimed he really won repeal by zeroing out a fine on people who fail to have insurance. But the reality is that Obamacare remains in place.

Congress helped Trump in rolling back Obama-era regulations through its use of the Congressional Review Act. Trump signed bills that loosened labor laws, environmental planning rules, and public education standards.

“Congressional Republicans are not completely without legislative victories from 2017,” said Molly Reynolds, a fellow in governance studies at the centrist Brookings Institution. “But, on the whole, I think internal divisions kept them from being more productive.”


ANDREW HARNIK | Associated Press
U.S. President Donald Trump waves goodbye as he enters Air Force One after participating in the East Asia Summit on Nov. 14, 2017, in Manila, Philippines.

Trump’s foreign policy

As commander-in-chief, Trump pressed ahead on foreign policy priorities that seek to make one thing clear: The United States will act with its own interest first.

PolitiFact has rated more than half of his 19 foreign policy promises as In the Works. Those 10 In the Works promises include asking other countries to pay more for their own defense; developing a plan to defeat ISIS; reversing Obama’s Cuba policy, and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump has kept promises to cancel the Paris climate agreement and to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among Pacific rim nations.

But six of his foreign policy promises are currently rated Stalled. Trump seems to have dropped his promise to bring back waterboarding after advisers told him it was a bad idea. He hasn’t called for an international conference to defeat ISIS. And he hasn’t moved to deport all Syrian refugees from the United States. The coming years will reveal whether these promises were permanently shelved or if he just hasn’t started on them.

The rest of the world has taken notice of Trump’s pugnacious approach.

An international poll from the Pew Research Center found that perceptions of the United States and the U.S. president have dropped sharply since Trump took office: In the closing years of the Obama presidency, 64 percent had a positive view of the country, while under Trump, only 49 percent are positive.


President Donald Trump leaves the White House to visit troops at Walter Reed Bethesda Naval Medical Center on Dec. 21, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

What’s next on the homefront

Domestically, Trump has shown the most activity on his promises to limit immigration and roll back regulations. Many of his promises in these areas are rated In the Works.

The White House has suggested it will introduce an official infrastructure proposal this month, possibly before Trump’s State of the Union address on Jan. 30; we’ve rated Trump’s promise to invest $550 billion in infrastructure as In the Works.

Trump’s other big domestic priorities are playing out in Congress, where the House and Senate have been trying to come to terms on a budget agreement. Trump campaigned vigorously on pledges to protect the entitlements of Social Security and Medicare, while some in his own party would like to see the programs trimmed.

If Trump does oppose changes to Social Security and Medicare, he would be joined in opposition with the Democrats. And Trump he said he’s open to working with Democrats in other areas as well.

Trump has urged Republicans and Democrats to work together to address immigration legislation that would help the Dreamers, immigrants who were brought as children to the United States illegally. Democrats, including Senate leader Charles Schumer and House leader Nancy Pelosi, have shown interest in working out a deal.

But Trump continually emphasizes building a wall, a move that Democrats strongly oppose.

“I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because it should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly. It should be a bill of love,” Trump said at a Jan. 9 meeting. “But it also has to be a bill where we’re able to secure our border. Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace. A lot of people coming in that we can’t have.”

Whether a wall becomes part of bipartisan legislation or a philosophical barrier to a legislative agreement remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: Trump will have to lower political walls to make progress on his agenda for the next three years.


PolitiFact’s Trump-O-Meter combines old-fashioned beat reporting with online structured data to create a catalog of President Donald Trump’s promises from the 2016 campaign.

PolitiFact’s Obameter tracked the 2008 and 2012 promises of Barack Obama in a similar fashion.

What counts as a promise? We define it as a guarantee of prospective action that is verifiable. When the campaign is over, our reporters follow up to find out if the president is working on what he told voters he would pursue.

Like PolitiFact’s fact-checks, each promise is assigned a rating with a report that explains why we rated it the way we did. A promise fulfilled, or largely fulfilled, rates Promise Kept. A promise not fulfilled rates Promise Broken. And a rating of Compromise is assigned to outcomes that are substantially less than the original pledge but still achieve something significant consistent with the goal. Prior to our final judgment, promises can be rated In the Works, Stalled or Not Yet Rated.

We rate promises based on outcomes, not intentions. If Congress blocks what Trump wants to do, the pledge gets a rating of Promise Broken. (Read the ratings for each promise rating here.)

Additional credits

  • Editor Katie Sanders and Angie Drobnic Holan
  • Photo editor Chris Urso
  • Story design Lyra Solochek and Lauren Flannery