Poll finds Akin with slim lead over McCaskill after rape comments

Two new polls suggest Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) is still competitive in his race for Missouri's Senate seat despite the firestorm over his controversial comments on rape.

A poll released by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) late Monday still gives Akin a single-percentage-point lead over incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), the same lead he posted in a PPP poll from late May.

A Survey USA poll, however, finds that a majority of Missourians believe he misspoke and want him to drop out, but that Akin still has support among Republicans in the red-trending state.

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Akin tops McCaskill by 44 percent to 43 in the PPP survey, nearly identical to their May poll where he led by 45 percent to 44, but the edge is within the survey’s 4-point margin of error.

Comments made by Akin in an interview publicized on Saturday — that women who are victims of "legitimate rape" do not get pregnant because their bodies shut down that process — sparked outrage from both sides of the aisle, with Republicans nationwide distancing themselves from the congressman and ultimately calling for his resignation from the nomination.

The comments dominated the evening talk shows well into the night, after Akin scheduled and canceled an appearance on "Piers Morgan Tonight" at the 9 p.m. Eastern Time hour.

The new PPP survey was taken between 6 and 9 p.m. Central Time on Monday — after Akin's comments had been widely publicized and he had been asked by senior Republicans to drop out of the race.

His persistent lead — even as 75 percent of voters and over two-thirds of Republicans in the PPP poll say his comments were inappropriate — is likely due to McCaskill's persistent unpopularity in the state. A majority, 53 percent, of Missourians disapprove of the senator, and the same percentage of independent Missourians disapprove of her as well, indicating she'll have an uphill battle to sway voters to back her in the general election.

Still, Akin has a pretty lukewarm rating with Missourians, too, with a full 58 percent rating him unfavorably. Even those who voted for then-GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008 are largely split over Akin, with 40 percent saying they view him favorably and 39 percent saying they view him unfavorably.

Another poll, however, conducted by SurveyUSA, is more troubling for the congressman: Fifty-four percent of those polled, split pretty evenly between women and men, believe he should drop out of the race. 

By party breakdown, however, a majority of Republicans believe he should stay in the race, 52 percent. Still, he loses independents, with 58 percent of that voting bloc saying he should drop out. 

A majority, 55 percent, do not believe that Akin actually misspoke — despite the fact that he's said in multiple interviews and releases that he made a mistake when he used the term "legitimate rape."

A SurveyUSA poll completed earlier this month gave Akin an 11-point lead over McCaskill, so the PPP poll could indicate that Akin's gaffe has given her an opportunity to close his lead — but is not yet the decisive blow in a race Republicans consider pivotal to their chances of taking back the Senate majority.

The SurveyUSA poll was conducted among 500 Missouri adults on Monday and has a margin of error ranging from plus or minus 3.8 percentage points to plus or minus 4.5 points. The Public Policy Polling survey was conducted among 500 likely Missouri voters from 6-9 p.m. Central Time on Monday, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.