A political party platform or program is a formal set of principal goals which are supported by a political party or individual candidate, in order to appeal to the general public, for the ultimate purpose of garnering the general public's support and votes about complicated topics or issues. "Plank" is the term often given to the components of the political platform - the opinions and viewpoints about individual topics, as held by a party, person, or organization. The word "plank" depicts a component of an overall political platform, as a metaphorical reference to a basic stage made out of boards or planks of wood. The metaphor can return to its literal origin when public speaking or debates are actually held upon a physical platform.
The first known use of the word platform was in 1535. The word platform comes from Middle French plate-forme, literally meaning "flat form". The political meaning of the word to reflect "statement of party politics" is from 1803, probably originally an image of a literal platform on which politicians gather, stand, and make their appeals.
A 2017 study in the American Journal of Political Science that analyzed 12 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States) found that political parties in government fulfill their election promises to voters to a considerable extent. The study determined that:
Parties that hold executive office after elections generally fulfill substantial percentages, sometimes very high percentages, of their election pledges, whereas parties that do not hold executive office generally find that lower percentages of their pledges are fulfilled. The fulfillment of pledges by governing executive parties varies across governments in ways that reflect power-sharing arrangements. The main power-sharing arrangement that impacts pledge fulfillment distinguishes between single-party governments and coalitions, not between governments with and without legislative majorities. We found the highest percentages of pledge fulfillment for governing parties in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, and Canada, most of which governed in single-party executives. We found lower percentages for governing parties in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Italy, most of which governed in coalitions. Pledge fulfillment by U.S. presidential parties lies at the higher end of coalition governments, which suggests that U.S. presidents are more constrained than governing parties in single-party parliamentary systems, but less constrained than most governing parties in multiparty coalitions.