Rural voters have abandoned Fianna Fáil with many former supporters switching directly to Fine Gael, an election poll carried out by the Farming Independent has found.
The survey of rural voter intentions showed that just 16pc of respondents would give their first preference vote to Fianna Fáil in the upcoming election, compared to 38pc who indicated their vote would be going to Fine Gael.
There was strong backing for independents, with 8pc indicating that they would give their first preference to a non-party candidate.
Support for the Labour Party stood at 6pc, Sinn Fein was on 5pc, while the Green Party came in with 1pc.
A further 18pc of those surveyed said they had not yet decided who to vote for on February 25, while 8pc claimed they would not vote.
The survey was carried out at the Farm Machinery Show in Punchestown, Co Kildare over the weekend, with 436 people polled.
The one positive for Fianna Fáil was the number of undecided voters. Almost two-thirds of the 'don't knows' -- or 12pc of the total sample -- were former Fianna Fáil voters who had supported the party in the 2007 election.
Should even half of this group vote for Fianna Fáil come election day, then a total meltdown of the party's rural support base might be avoided.
However, this latest survey highlights the extent to which the party is haemorrhaging rural as well as urban support. The Punchestown poll showed that 48pc of the 436 respondents gave Fianna Fáil their first preference vote in the 2007 election.
But just one in three of their former supporters said they would definitely give Fianna Fáil their first preference vote in the upcoming poll.
And in an unprecedented development, the survey revealed a massive shift in support directly from Fianna Fáil to Fine Gael.
In fact, 20pc of those who gave their first preference to Fianna Fáil in 2007 said they would give it to Fine Gael this time around.
While 24pc of the Fianna Fáil supporter base from 2007 said they were undecided on their voting intentions, 8pc now back independent candidates, a further 8pc said they would not vote, 5pc have moved over to the Labour Party, 4pc switched to Sinn Fein and 1pc moved to the Green Party.
Fine Gael was the clear favourite from the poll, with 38pc of those surveyed indicating they would give their first preference vote to Enda Kenny's charges come the end of the month.
If this level of support is maintained over the next 10 days, then Fine Gael could take a raft of rural Dáil seats from Fianna Fáil.
In conversations generated by the survey, the economic collapse, rising unemployment, emigration and poor jobs prospects were cited by respondents as their main concerns.
In terms of farming issues, the threat to the single farm payment from CAP reform was a concern.