OVER the last few weeks, the general election has dominated the news agenda as Ireland goes to the polls this weekend.
We asked our readers what the big issues of this election campaign are, and what decide how they vote on February 8.
Asked whether health, housing, Brexit, the personality of candidates or party allegiance would serve to sway them, the majority of the more than 10,000 respondents said that health was the most important issue to them.
Of the 10,701 who answered Independent.ie's poll, 28pc (2998) said that health was this campaign's major issue.
Fine Gael faltered on housing during the campaign, and their fall in the polls could be reflective of that as 23pc (2466) said that for them, that issue will tip the balance as to how they vote.
An appetite for change of government has been evident since Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called an election in mid-January, and party allegiance, which is usually regarded as a major factor in voting decisions only polled third on our list, with 18pc (1916).
The personality of candidates and Brexit paled in comparison to the other reasons to vote a certain way, with 7pc (749) and 4pc (474) respectively. Some 20pc of people said that their decision would be based on a different subject.
One such issue was that of the increase in pension age from 66 to 67, favored by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Independent.ie readers voted overwhelmingly that Irish retirees shouldn't have to wait the extra year, with 85pc against the change compared to 15pc in favour.
The Labour Party, who were in government with Fine Gael when the pension age was increased from 65 to 66, said that they are not in favour of it increasing again, and other parties, like Sinn Féin have promised to restore the pension age to 65.
Asked which party, of the four mentioned, readers would vote for based solely on pension policy, Sinn Féin led the way on 48pc, while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael received 24pc and 19pc respectively, while support for Labour dwindled on 9pc.
An actuarial review predicted a pensions timebomb in Ireland with a potential deficit of over €400bn.
The review of Social Insurance Fund by accountants KPMG in 2015, said the number of over-66s will rise from 12pc of the population in 2015 to 17pc in 2035 and 23pc in 2055.
The review was rejected as inaccurate by SIPTU, as well as Solidarity People Before Profit and other parties.
Crime is another issue which has dominated coverage of this election. A spate of crime at the beginning of the campaign, as well as an increase overall in the time of the last government has been a talking point throughout.
Asked if the spike in violent incidents nationwide would damage Fine Gael's reputation, 72pc said it would, while the other 28pc said it would not turn them off Leo Varadkar's party.
On February 1 a poll from The Times Ireland saw Sinn Féin overtake Fine Gael as the second most popular party in Ireland on 21pc, behind Fianna Fáil on 23pc and ahead of Fine Gael on 19pc.
A day later, a Red C poll for the Business Post compounded Fine Gael's woes as Sinn Féin drew level with Fianna Fáil on 24pc, while Fine Gael's popularity was at 21pc.
The most recent, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI Opinion Poll on February 3, saw Sinn Féin's popularity continue to grow to the most popular party on 25pc with Fianna Fáil on 23pc and Fine Gael dropping further to 20pc.
Asked if the polls would have an negative effect for Fine Gael, 79pc said they thought it would, with just 21pc saying that it wouldn't .
One area where the current government would have expected to earn points was their Brexit negotiations, which were widely praised.
While the topic was repeated by Leo Varadkar and his party throughout the campaign however, only 39pc of readers said that the Government's handling of Brexit would benefit them in the campaign - the other 61pc saying it would have no effect.
Amid a Climate Emergency, health policies formed one of the areas of most scrutiny in parties' manifestos this election. According to our readers, however, the policies are not as interesting to them as they are to the media.
Only 42pc said that they would researching parties' climate change policies as part of their decision on who to vote for, the remaining 48pc saying they will.
Parties like Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green party are proposing an increase in the end-of-decade carbon tax target, with the two larger parties aiming for a €80 per tonne of carbon by 2030, and the Green Party seeking a €100 per tonne tax.
An Ireland Thinks poll at the beginning of January found that six out of 10 voters oppose any increase in carbon tax.
People Before Profit and Sinn Féin are also against the taxation - the purpose of which is to change Irish habits and decrease the nation's carbon output.
We asked our readers if an increase in the tax would urge them to change their habits. 70pc of readers who responded said that the tax would not alter their behaviour, with 24pc saying it would and 6pc saying they were unsure.
In voting, it is irresponsible not to be fully informed. While the majority of our readers said that they would not read the green policies of parties, 54pc said that they would read parties' manifestos before voting.
Information on paper is clearly preferred however, as only 41pc said that they would engage with canvassers at their door.