Is Trump signing more executive orders than anyone else?

[UPDATE: I will be delving into my motivation for building this viz, and how I did it, in a #MyRecentViz webinar on Feb 7th]

Click to see an interactive version

As a left-leaning citizen, I watch in horror as Donald Trump dismantles Obama’s legacy. As a British person, the reports of Trump’s signing of a multitude of executive orders, actions, and presidential memoranda leave me in shock. How can a nation have a system where a president can pass laws without any checks or balances?

“Surely this level of activity is unprecedented,” I think.

Wary that drawing a conclusion based on media reports alone is risky, I sought the data to compare Trump to previous presidents. I got the data from the excellent American Presidency Project.

My data-driven, fact-based conclusion is disheartening: Trump is merely following the lead set by Obama 8 years ago. Barak Obama signed 9 executive orders in his first 10 days. He was the first president to get the pen out to dismantle the previous president’s legacy. Prior to Obama, George W signed two orders in the first ten days. Before him Clinton signed three.

8 years ago, I probably applauded those executive orders Obama signed. Little could I predict that he was setting a precedent that could be used by any future president.

For more on executive orders, Jurist has a good summary. has a good summary of the difference between executive orders and actions.

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This is really interesting Andy. Also something covered by Freakonomics late last year.

“Since the midterm elections of 2010, President Obama has faced a Republican-controlled Congress that has countered many of his policy goals. This led Obama to repeatedly employ executive orders to get what he’s after, sidestepping the pesky process of getting Congress to pass laws. Saturday Night Live took note of his constant maneuvering, in a parody of the old Schoolhouse Rock bit about how a bill becomes a law.
To be fair, Obama is not remotely anomalous in his use of executive orders. George W. Bush, for example, issued 291 executive orders. Bill Clinton? Three hundred and sixty-four. President Obama, with a few months to go, has signed 249. So by sheer number, that isn’t remarkable. But, Eric Posner argues, Obama has used his power differently.”

As we try and fight everything Trump related we can easily be caught up on the bashing bus. It’s good to look it from a data perspective. Thank you for doing the leg work.

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