Election promise

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An election promise or campaign promise is a promise or guarantee made to the public by a candidate or political party that are trying to win an election. Election promises may be instrumental in getting an official elected to office. Election promises are often abandoned once in office.

Broken promises[edit]

Popular cynicism and 24-hour media has increased the public's perception of 'lies' and broken promises since 1945, although the fraction of broken promises remained roughly level at less than 20% over that time.[1]

Strong pressures drive politicians to make unrealistic promises. A party that does not make exaggerated promises might lose gullible voters. For instance George W. Bush in the 2000 American presidential election promised lower taxes, more social programs and a balanced budget and in the end abandoned the latter. In the 2003 provincial election in Ontario, Canada, the Liberal Party also made all three promises before opting to raise taxes after the election.

Election promises differ in different government systems. In the Westminster System, where almost all power resides in the office of the Prime Minister, voters know where to ascribe blame for broken promises. In presidential systems such as the separation of powers approach used in the United States, electorates are less prepared to punish politicians for broken promises.

The executive producer of the ABC evening news, Av Westin, wrote a memo in March 1969 that stated:

"I have asked our Vietnam staff to alter the focus of their coverage from combat pieces to interpretive ones, pegged to the eventual pull-out of the American forces. This point should be stressed for all hands."[2]

Examples of broken promises[edit]

  • The British Liberal Party's pledge to cut military spending, before embarking on the Dreadnought arms race with Germany.
  • The British Labour Party's 1945 pledge to set up a new ministry of housing.
  • Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, in 1987, said that "by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty"
  • George H. W. Bush promised not to raise taxes while president during his 1988 campaign. This was best remembered in a speech at the Republican National Convention when he said "Congress will push and push...and I'll say Read my lips: no new taxes".[3] After a recession began during his term and the deficit widened, Bush agreed to proposals to increase taxes. Although not the only broken promise concerning taxes, it was by far the most famous.
  • In 1994, upon entering Italian politics, media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi promised that he would sell his assets in Fininvest (later Mediaset), because of the conflict of interest it would have generated, a promise he repeated a number of times in later years, but after 12 years and having served three terms as prime minister, he still retains ownership of his company that controls virtually all the Italian private TV stations and a large number of magazines and publishing houses, which have extensively been used in favour of his political party
  • Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 1995 that the GST would "never ever"[4] be part of Liberal policy (the tax package was not implemented that term but was put to the Australian people at the next election in 1998 that re-elected Howard)
  • During the 2000 U.S. Presidential election campaign, George W. Bush stated, "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."[5]
  • In Ireland, Fianna Fáil's 2002 election promise to "permanently end all hospital waiting lists" by 2004 and to "create a world class health service" through reform and expanding healthcare coverage with "200,000 extra medical cards".[6]
  • When asked about the issue of carbon taxation, Prime Minister Julia Gillard responded by saying "There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead, but let's be absolutely clear. I am determined to price carbon".[7] In February 2011, Gillard then announced a carbon pricing mechanism in order to secure a minority government. This has been construed by some as being a broken promise, with debate centering on whether or not a fixed price leading into a trading scheme can be called a 'tax'.
  • Then Irish Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore infamously said before the 2011 general election "It's Frankfurt's way or Labour's way" in reference to the EU/IMF deal but then went on to accept the deal.[8]
  • President Barack Obama vowed repeatedly during the 2008 election to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but the prison was still open as of 2015.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Parmet, Herbert S. (December 1989). The Devil We Knew: Americans and the Cold War. Little Brown & Co. ISBN 0-19-509377-1.  p. 116 "Nixon didn't invent the phrase, which originated with a reporter looking for a lead to a story summarizing the Republican candidate's (hazy) promise to end the war without losing. But neither did he disavow the term, and it soon became a part of the campaign. When pressed for details, Nixon retreated to the not indefensible position that to tip his hand would interfere with the negotiations that had begun in Paris."; Parmet, Herbert S. (December 1989). Richard Nixon and His America. Little Brown & Co. ISBN 0-316-69232-8.  Stated evidence suggests that Nixon never used the term, and that it actually came from a question by a voter at a New Hampshire campaign stop.
  2. ^ "Nixon: Vietnam Shows Need for 'New Diplomacy'". Cedar Rapids Gazette (Iowa). March 20, 1968. p. 62. 
  3. ^ Morin, Relman (March 14, 1968). "Nixon Plans to Unfold Peace Plan When He Campaigns Against LBJ". Press Telegram (Long Beach, Cal.). p. 10. 
  4. ^ Nixon, Richard. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon.  p. 298
  5. ^ Coleman, Fred (1997). The Decline and Fall of Soviet Empire : Forty Years That Shook The World, From Stalin to Yeltsin. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-16816-0.  p. 203
  6. ^ Anderson, Terry; Small, Melvin (1990). "Review of Johnson, Nixon, and the Doves". The American Historical Review (The American Historical Review, Vol. 95, No. 3) 95 (3): 944–945. doi:10.2307/2164514. JSTOR 2164514. 
  7. ^ Small, Melvin (April 1988). Johnson, Nixon, and the Doves. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-1288-3.  p. 174; Zaroulis, Nancy and Gerald Sullivan (1984). Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam, 1963-1975. Doubleday. ISBN 0-03-005603-9.  p. 217
  8. ^ Small p. 162
  9. ^ Small p. 179
  10. ^ Strauss, Robert S. (Summer 1984). "What's Right with U. S. Campaigns". Foreign Policy 55: 15. doi:10.2307/1148378. 
  11. ^ See U.S. presidential election, 1900 Misleading Philippine War claims by the Republicans
  12. ^ Small, p. 166; Riegle, Don (1972). O Congress. Doubleday.  p. 20; Kalb, Marvin and Bernard (1974). Kissinger. Hutchison. ISBN.  p. 120; Hersh, Seymour M. (1983). The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. Summit Books. ISBN 0-671-44760-2.  p. 119
  13. ^ Solomon, Norman (December 22, 2005). "A New Phase of Bright Spinning Lies About Iraq". CommonDreams.org. 


  1. ^ Stoker (2006). Why Politics Matters. Palgrave Macmillan. 
  2. ^ Solomon, Norman (2010). War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. John Wiley & Sons. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-118-04032-4. 
  3. ^ How Headline Writers Read Bush's Lips, Reading Eagle, July 5, 1990, p.9.
  4. ^ John Howard's a lesson for second coming, The Australian, August 30, 2008.
  5. ^ Rebecca Leung (January 9, 2004). "Bush Sought ‘Way’ To Invade Iraq?, O'Neill Tells '60 Minutes' Iraq Was 'Topic A' 8 Months Before 9-11". CBS News. 
  6. ^ http://www.oocities.org/socialistparty/paperarticles/Nov02-AntiCuts.htm
  7. ^ "The tax that’s not a tax". Sustainability Australia. March 10, 2013. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ David Jackson (July 22, 2015). "Obama team drafting another plan to close Gitmo". USA Today.