Politics, policy and economics, visualized.

Obama Issues Fewer Executive Orders than Any President Since the 1800s

Graphic by Christopher Ingraham

Ted Cruz has already referred to Barack Obama’s use of executive orders as “lawless.” Considering it’s a safe bet we’ll be hearing a lot more of this rhetoric in the months to come, I decided to dig into the historical data on presidential executive orders. The American Presidency Project at UCSB helpfully maintains a table of executive orders issued per president, from George Washington onwards. This is super-useful, but it doesn’t account for disparities in the amount of time each president served. So I normalized the data against the number of days in office per president, taken from Wikipedia.

It turns out that the first half of the 20th century was the high water mark of presidential executive orders, with FDR issuing them at a rate of nearly one per day! Obama, by contrast, is currently issuing orders more slowly than any president since Grover Cleveland. It’ll be interesting to check back on this number again a year from now.

One more tidbit: Republican presidents issue more orders than their Democratic counterparts, at a rate of 0.23 vs. 0.18 orders per day in office.