US & Canada

US election: Donald Trump's convention speech and 'the truth'

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Media captionTrump: US 'in crisis'

Did Donald Trump tell "the truth and nothing else" as he promised in his speech to the US Republican convention, accepting the party's presidential nomination?

Here we hold the candidate to his promise by checking how well he built his case on three top voter issues: crime, terrorism and the economy.


Crime

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Image caption A riderless horse is paraded symbolically at a ceremony for murdered Dallas police officer Patrick Zamarripa

Some of Mr Trump's hardest-hitting lines were on law and order:

  • "Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this [Obama] administration's rollback of criminal enforcement. Homicides last year increased by 17% in America's 50 largest cities. That's the largest increase in 25 years"
  • "The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50% compared to this point last year"
  • "My opponent wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment"

The city murder figures appear to be broadly accurate (though complete FBI crime statistics for 2015 are not yet available) but what Mr Trump does not say is that they are still very low by historical standards. For instance, half as many people were killed last year as in 1991 in the 50 largest cities, according to a Washington Post report in January. Nor does the candidate acknowledge major spending increases by the Obama administration on state and local law enforcement.

Context is also key to the second claim. A reliable count of overall police deaths up to 20 July comes up with 67, compared to 62 for the same period last year. So where did Mr Trump get 50% from? Presumably from the figure for police deaths from intentional shootings, such as the Dallas massacre: 32 this year compared to 18 last year.

The third claim is much harder to defend. Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump's Democratic opponent in November, has not proposed revoking the constitutionally protected right to bear arms. She has proposed banning certain military-style weapons and expanding existing criminal background checks.

Violent crime is an issue for Americans but by no means the top one, according to the latest survey of US voter concerns by the Pew Research Centre (widely respected for its impartiality and expertise).

Gun policy (the only law and order issue put to Pew respondents) ranks fifth, cited by 72%. Among Mr Trump's supporters, the figure drops to 71% while it rises to 74% among Clinton voters


Terrorism

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Image caption Members of Congress last week commemorated victims of the Orlando massacre by a self-styled Islamic State gunman

Mrs Clinton's policies, both as a former secretary of state (2009-13) and a presidential candidate, were portrayed in the speech as a recipe for national insecurity:

  • "After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? Isis [the Islamic State militant group] has spread across the region, and the entire world. Libya is in ruins, and our ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control. Iraq is in chaos. Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis now threatens the West... This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness"
  • "My opponent has called for a radical 550% increase in Syrian [unfinished sentence]. She proposes this despite the fact that there's no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people"

Blaming a US secretary of state for the chaos and violence in the Middle East since the Arab Spring of 2011 is sweeping. More specifically, the US did not lead the Western military intervention in Libya and Mrs Clinton had no role in the military decisions made during the attack on the US diplomatic post there in 2012. By contrast, she did work to impose nuclear sanctions against Iran - which were only lifted under her successor, John Kerry.

Syrian refugees actually are screened by the US government, which conducts rigorous background checks. Processing of a refugee can take 18 months to two years. Refugees are also subject to interviews and fingerprint and other biometric screening.

After a year of domestic attacks linked to so-called Islamic State, from San Bernardino to Orlando, terrorism ranks number two on Pew's list of voter concerns, chosen by 80% of respondents. Among Trump supporters, it is singled out by 89% while 74% of Clinton supporters rank it as "very important".


The economy

This is the issue uppermost in the minds of Americans, according to Pew. It is cited as such by 84% of respondents (90% of Mr Trump's supporters and 80% of Clinton voters).

Mr Trump's speech ranged from taxation, an evergreen concern for Republican voters, to poverty among the Hispanic population, a section of the electorate he needs to win over:

  • "America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world"
  • "Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when President Obama took his oath of office less than eight years ago"

Compared to its peers in the developed world, the US hardly comes across as a high-tax country. Taxes made up 26% of the total US economy in 2014, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. But for Sweden, they constituted 42.7%, for Germany 36.1% and for the UK 32.6%. Based on available data, only three OECD members had a lower figure than the US: Chile, South Korea and Mexico.

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Image caption Trump as donkey: the US candidate and his famous hairstyle mocked at a festival in Mexico this spring

Mr Trump's figure for Hispanic poverty is accurate but what he does not say is that America's Latino population has climbed considerably since Mr Obama took power in 2008. Between 2010 and 2014, for instance, it rose by 4.6 million, according to Pew. Pew estimates that those living in poverty as a percentage of the Hispanic population actually fell from 24.7% to 23.5% in the same period.