Methods and devices are provided for actuating and/or articulating a surgical stapler. In one embodiment, a surgical stapler is provided having a stapling mechanism or end effector that is movably coupled to a distal end of an elongate shaft. An electrically expandable and contractible actuator, such as an electroactive polymer actuator, can be used to pivotally or angularly adjust a position of the stapling mechanism relative to the elongate shaft by delivering energy to the electroactive polymer actuator. In another embodiment, an electroactive polymer actuator can be used to actuate the staple applying assembly, thereby driving one or more staples, and preferably at least two linear rows of staples, into tissue. The actuator can alternatively or additionally drive a blade distally to cut tissue being stapled.