A new poll shows that support for Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) Senate candidacy has sharply declined since he remarked in an interview broadcast Sunday that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy. Akin now trails Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) 50 percent to 41 percent in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch/News 4 poll, which showed him leading the Democrat by 5 points in late July.

(Christian Gooden — AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Support for Akin has dropped dramatically among independents. The poll, which was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., shows Akin trailing McCaskill 52 percent to 35 percent among independents, who favored the Republican congressman by 11 points over McCaskill in the late July survey.

Fully 56 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Akin in the latest poll, while just 17 percent said they had a favorable impression of him. In the previous poll, 24 percent had a favorable view of Akin while 11 percent had an unfavorable view of him.

Republicans both inside and outside Missouri have called on Akin to end his Senate candidacy. But on multiple occasions in the days following his controversial remarks, Akin reiterated his intention to continue his campaign. He released a television ad Tuesday asking voters to forgive the comment, and in a press conference in Missouri on Friday vowed to stay in the race all the way to November.

Even among Akin's own supporters, demand for him to exit the race is high. Half of self-described Akin voters said he should withdraw in the wake of his comments, while just 34 percent said he should remain in the contest, according to the latest poll.

The Mason-Dixon survey is the first live-caller poll of the race released since Akin's comments. On Thursday, automated pollster Rasmussen Reports released the results of a one-day poll showing McCaskill leading Akin by 10 points.

Akin won a three-way Republican primary on Aug. 7. The late July Mason-Dixon poll of the GOP race showed him trailing businessman John Brunner by 16 points. Brunner ended up finishing second behind Akin on primary day.

Republican officials are hoping Akin reconsiders his decision to stay in. He has until Sept. 25 to file a legal petition to end his bid and remove his name from the ballot. The GOP state central committee would be responsible for choosing a replacement nominee. If Akin does not end his bid by Sept. 25, his name is guaranteed to appear on the ballot in November.

The latest Mason-Dixon poll of 625 likely Missouri voters was conducted on Aug. 22 and 23 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.