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Most Americans are open to Biden using executive action

There’s strong support for executive actions that preserve DACA and roll back Trump’s environmental regulations.

Biden waves while wearing a mask.
US President Joe Biden walks the abbreviated parade route after his inauguration on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. 
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

A majority of Americans are open to President Joe Biden using executive action to advance policy priorities more quickly — but support varies significantly depending on the issue area.

According to a new poll from Vox and Data for Progress, only 18 percent of likely voters think Biden should use executive action whenever he can to implement his policy agenda, while 41 percent would back him using it on a case-by-case basis and 32 percent do not think he should take this route at all. Support also fluctuates by party: Just 10 percent of Democrats don’t think Biden should use executive action at all, while 57 percent of Republicans feel this way.

As the Biden administration has already made clear, there’s a lot that he can do to both reverse Trump-era regulations and advance new ones without congressional approval. Per Vox’s German Lopez, Biden signed 17 executive actions on his first day, addressing a wide range of subjects including a mask mandate on federal property, America’s involvement in the Paris climate agreement, and an extension of federal eviction moratoriums.

The Vox/DFP poll, which was fielded on January 6 and 7, revealed strong support for Biden to use executive action on various fronts, including to enroll more people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation. Sixty percent of people, including 81 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents, and 36 percent of Republicans, support this action. Biden on Wednesday signed a proposal that helps preserve DACA and calls on Congress to approve legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for recipients.

Biden’s use of executive actions is both a way to expedite rollbacks of Trump’s executive initiatives and a necessity to advance some efforts — like a swift vaccine rollout — given the current political reality. As emerging Republican pushback to Biden’s stimulus plan indicates, getting enough GOP support to reach 60 votes in the Senate is poised to be a challenge, and it could take much longer to advance bills with bipartisan backing. Given this dynamic, executive action enables Biden to move far more quickly to address the urgent nature of the ongoing crisis.

The poll surveyed 1,156 likely voters and had a 2.9 percentage point margin of error.

There’s strong support for Biden to use executive action on some areas

Support for Biden’s use of executive action depends on the issue area. This poll, ultimately, wound up covering policies the president has already addressed, as well as several that he hasn’t yet.

Among the subjects that get widespread support in addition to increasing access to DACA: 70 percent of people think he should go it alone in order to increase access to food and housing aid, and 66 percent support his ability to encourage government agencies to use products that are sustainable and made using fair labor practices.

Restoring regulations that protect the environment (51 percent), withdrawing US combat troops from Afghanistan (54 percent), and expanding banking services offered by the US Postal Service (51 percent) all garnered a narrow majority of support as well.

A few other areas, including abolishing the federal death penalty (35 percent) and undoing Trump’s travel ban (39 percent), were more contentious. Both issues broke heavily along party lines: A majority of Democrats would back Biden taking actions on both fronts, while roughly 19 percent of Republicans would.

Biden has already rolled back the travel ban as well as revoked a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, among his efforts. Additional executive actions could well be on the horizon, depending on what he’s able to tackle in this way — and the type of opposition policies face in Congress.