Paul Moran: Allegiances are hardening as finish line nears
THE finishing line is in sight. Our final poll, conducted between Saturday and Monday, shows the state of the parties with 48 hours to go.
Opinion is forming nicely, with just one in 10 now undecided, down from 15pc last week.
What is most striking is the degree of consistency evident over the past couple of weeks. Fine Gael has run a campaign it could only have dreamed of, and sits on 38pc of the national vote.
It has been its best election in nearly 30 years in terms of its consistency, and is a world away from just nine years ago when the party nearly imploded.
The only concern it may have at this stage is 'spooking' the electorate with the prospect of a single-party government.
Notwithstanding the fact that it is arguably the most transfer-friendly, on these figures single-party government is not a likely scenario.
At 20pc, Labour will reflect afterwards on this campaign, and no doubt there will be a detailed post-mortem.
Whilst still in territory unheard of recently (twice their 2007 General Election result, and reinforcing the party as the second force in Irish politics), it may see this election as a missed opportunity.
The much vaunted Spring Tide brought 19pc of the popular vote in the 1990s (plus the Democratic Left tacked on another 6pc). Failure to capitalise more on the travails of the outgoing government will be the cause of much soul searching.
As a party it seems unable to embrace both the centre-right and left-wing vote simultaneously -- or those electorates are unable to embrace it.
Fianna Fail, at 14pc, seems destined for meltdown -- an unforgiving electorate is not prepared to listen to apologies, proposed reforms or justifications for what has happened to this economy.
Most worrying for the party is that the process of rebuilding after this election will not be a straightforward process -- and it will not happen overnight.
In particular, with just 10pc of the vote in Dublin, it would seem there will be vast tracts of electoral wasteland for the party.
The comparisons with Fine Gael's performance in the 2002 General Election are striking (whilst undoubtedly prompted by different reasons).
The Micheal Martin bounce never materialised, or where it did, has been somewhat cruelly referred to as the 'dead cat' bounce.
Sinn Fein has been tipping along, and on the basis of these results will garnish 11pc of the first preference. As always with that party, its key problem will be to get its voters out on the day.
Traditionally a party that is transfer-toxic, it will be interesting to see what effect the volume of Independent candidates will have on it in the final shake-up for the last seat.
At 16pc, the figure for those voting for others/Independents has remained steady (and remarkably high) so close to an election.
There are two schools of thought on the impact of Independents. Are they potential kingmakers, having the capacity to prop up a Fine Gael-led government (in the event that Fine Gael wanted them to do so), or if the assumed coalition materialises, are these votes redundant?
The Green Party remains at 1pc, and is in a dogfight to maintain representation in the next Dail.
Against a backdrop of financial and economic crisis, this election has been most curious; there has been no real stand-out moment that has shifted opinion decisively.
Perhaps fatigue has set in with the electorate; In essence this campaign began in November.
Finally, looking back at the results of our Millward Brown Lansdowne Exit poll for RTE in 2007, one-in-eight voters claimed they decided who to vote for in the 24 hours before polling. Food for thought for all the parties.
Paul Moran is a Research Project Manager with Millward Brown Lansdowne