Exclusive poll: Americans believe Cohen, don't want impeachment

Data: Survey Monkey online poll conducted August 22-24, 2018 among 4,362 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±3.0 percentage points. Modeled error estimates: African-American women ±7.0, age 18 to 34 ±4.5, White suburban women ±5.0, Never Hillary Independent voters ±8.0, Rural voters ±4.0; Poll methodology; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Almost two thirds of Americans believe Michael Cohen's claim that President Trump ordered him to make illegal payments to two women to keep them quiet about his affairs — but less than half of Americans believe Congress should start impeachment proceedings, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

Why it matters: Republicans believe it's those payments, which would have violated campaign finance law, that put Trump in the greatest danger of impeachment if Democrats win the House in November. The poll shows that the majority of Americans, including about half of independents, aren't ready for that.

Between the lines: Axios and SurveyMonkey are tracking opinions on key issues among five key voter subgroups between now and the November elections. Here's what we found in the poll, taken right after Cohen implicated Trump last week:

  • Three key subgroups — white suburban women, "Never Hillary" independents, and rural voters — are strongly against impeachment.
  • Two subgroups — Millennials and African American women — strongly favor it.
  • However, every subgroup believes Cohen about the illegal payments. The numbers suggest that many Americans just aren't bothered about it to demand impeachment proceedings.
  • Americans are more divided about whether Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government to swing the 2016 presidential election to him. Millennials and African American women believe it, rural voters and "Never Hillary independents" don't, and white suburban women are split.

What to watch: Impeachment would be so disruptive to the country, if Democrats actually attempted it, that they're sure to be watching the poll numbers closely for signs that a majority of the country would support it.

  • Top Democrats have already been cautious in how they talk about it, if they talk about it at all. Here's what Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee and the man who would lead an impeachment effort, told The New Yorker in February: "[Y]ou should not impeach the President unless you really believe that, by the end of the process, you will have not only Democrats agreeing with you but a good fraction of the people who voted for him.”

The danger signs for Trump:

  • More than four out of 10 Americans say they're ready for impeachment.
  • That's more than President Richard Nixon faced after the "Saturday Night Massacre."
  • Independents are not overwhelmingly against impeachment. They're split almost down the middle.

Historical note: Nixon's impeachment numbers, as measured by Gallup polls at the time, didn't reach a majority until right before he resigned, per the Pew Research Center.

The bottom line: Trump is not in immediate danger now — but he is not safe.

Methodology: This analysis is based on SurveyMonkey online surveys conducted Aug. 22-24, 2018 among 4,362 adults in the United States. The modeled error estimate  for the full sample is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. Sample sizes and modeled error estimates for the subgroups are as follows:

African-American Women (n=259, +/- 7), Millennials Age 18 - 34  (n=846, +/- 4.5), White Suburban Women  (n=743 , +/- 5), NeverHillary/Independent voters  (n= 273, +/- 8), Rural  (n= 1,036, +/- 4). Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. More information about our methodology here. Crosstabs available here.