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DUP and Sinn Fein continue to be joined at hip in opinion polls

The DUP and Sinn Fein continue to be joined at the hip in the polls, with support marginally increasing for both parties, the latest opinion poll suggests.

The DUP also appears to have widened the gap between itself and Sinn Fein.

Pollsters also say there has been a noticeable increase in SDLP voters saying they will give their second preference to the UUP and vice-versa.

While the mood among the general public suggests Alliance have been the most effective during the campaign.

That's the latest finding by pollsters LucidTalk.  The Northern Ireland-based research company regularly carries out surveys of its near 7,000-strong opinion panel, with responses then boiled down to represent the Northern Ireland population.

Between February 24 and 26 over 3,000 people responded to the survey with 1,580 taken into consideration in order to get a representative sample of the Northern Ireland population in order to extrapolate them out to predict voting patterns.

The company, which says its results are accurate to within 3%, has conducted a series of polls in the run up to the March 2 election.

Previously a decline in support was noted for the DUP, however, the company's final poll ahead of Thursday's crucial vote suggests they have "levelled off".

The latest figures put the DUP at 26.35% with Sinn Fein at 25.34%. The UUP sit on 13.9%, the SDLP 12.2 and Alliance on 9.4%.

Weighing most on people's minds was the matter of the health service with education second and RHI third.

Bill White managing director at LucidTalk said: "Compared with our January poll the DUP are ‘ever so slightly’ trending upwards again, with a very small increase compared to our January poll of 0.4%. Although this can’t be viewed as statistically significant, as it’s within the poll error boundaries. However, this basically means they’ve levelled off, and they’ll be relieved the downward trend seems to have levelled off."

Ex-DUP MLA David McIlveen throws support behind North Antrim UUP candidate

He said that while the polls indicate a 3% drop in support for the DUP it was unlikely to affect their overall number of seats proportionally in the reduced 90-seat Assembly.

Mr White added: "A large number of poll participants who said they voted DUP last May, say they will switch this time to the UUP and other parties. This is a noticeable swing to the UUP, but at this stage in the campaign, is not overwhelming and the DUP can cope with this swing.

"But they can’t afford the swing to grow anymore over the course of the last days of the campaign."

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