While polls are simply a snapshot of public opinion at that time, recent surveys would suggest Northern Ireland is heading for significant political change.
Polls have a margin of error and they have been wrong in the past.
Few predicted Brexit, the polls were against Donald Trump throughout much of his campaign to become American president in 2016, and while a Tory win was expected, no poll predicted the landslide result for the Conservatives when they cracked the Red Wall in the December 2019 General Election.
The DUP must be clinging to the hope that recent polls are wrong — not just within the margin of error, but way, way off.
The latest LucidTalk Poll, carried in the Belfast Telegraph over the weekend, shows the party’s expected bounce back as a result of Jeffrey Donaldson’s appointment as leader has simply not materialised.
Donaldson’s personal rating as leader is not what senior party members will have been hoping for — 70% rated him as bad or awful.
Just 17% of respondents saying they would vote for the party if an Assembly election happened tomorrow.
By way of comparison the party secured over 28% of the vote in the 2017 Assembly poll. They have increased slightly since the summer of not much love, when the DUP went through three leaders in a month, but not at the rate they would have liked.
Unionism is split into very definite camps.
The UUP are now at 14%, as are the non-designating Alliance. Both are in a battle for the hearts and minds of the ‘small u’ unionist vote.
Doug Beattie enjoys a good personal rating, the highest by far of all the party leaders with 43% rating him as good or great.
He must be relieved that the poll was taken earlier this month, and before he posted a tasteless joke about Edwin Poots’ wife that resulted in a social media backlash and the Upper Bann MLA having to delete the post.
Beattie’s progressive image he has been so carefully cultivating with his recruitment of younger women to the party took a hit when he posted the sexist ‘end of pier’ style joke.
While a quick delete and apology will minimise any real impact the slip-up may cause, it was a reminder that politicians can be riding high and yet one slip of the tongue, one perfectly timed scandal, and the entire campaign can come crashing down.
Just look at Boris Johnson’s current woes — from an historic majority to his legacy being the man who turned Downing Street into a Wetherspoon’s while the rest of the country was subjected to a government-ordered lockdown.
It is a cautionary tale for all politicians — a good rating can be quickly turned into a bad one with just one bad decision.
With unionism split, Sinn Fein is on track to be the biggest party in the Assembly after the spring election.
LucidTalk has them sitting at 25%, up one point on the last opinion poll, still slightly short of their biggest ever vote of almost 28% in the 2017 election, but a more than respectable result even with the margin of error.
Sinn Fein’s long-term plan has always been to lead the government North and South ahead of any future border poll and that now looks not just possible but highly likely.
The question is can they hold their nerve — to get complacent at the final hour has been the undoing of many a successful candidate.
If they can stay scandal-free and maintain the notorious party discipline, they are certainly on track for success.
Their very public detractors have in recent years seen their ability to sway public opinion decline. The criticism no longer lands with younger voters, who see our troubled past as history rather than something that impacts modern political decisions.
The question will then be on if the DUP, or possibly even the UUP if they can maintain their bounce, nominate a Deputy First Minister to serve alongside them.
To not do so makes a mockery of democracy, happy to serve in the joint post if they are top billing, but in no other circumstances.
To nominate would be a big psychological hurdle for unionism to overcome with the ability of unionist politicians to sense and react to changing social attitudes, voting patterns and demographics required.
But it would also play straight into the hands of Jim Allister, who is always waiting like a pantomime villain in the wings to attack the DUP for any perceived compromise with nationalists.
Allister’s party secured an impressive 12% of first preference votes of those polled by LucidTalk, yet the TUV secured just 2.6% of the vote in the 2017 election.
Can he for the first time since the formation of the hard-line party manage to bring others with him into the Assembly? His biggest hurdle is the low profile of other candidates and being transfer unfriendly in an STV election.
For the SDLP, holding onto the MLAs they already have and not suffering any losses would be considered a success.
Alliance will be keen to make gains, with LucidTalk putting them at a respectable 14% they have a few key constituencies such as Lagan Valley in their sight.
At the sharp is when elections really get interesting. What will happen with the Greens who tend to sit at around 2% to 3%, People Before Profit at 1% and independents such as Claire Sugden?
What is clear is that the May election will be anything but dull and could be one of the most seismic in the last 20 years.
Buckle up, 2022 is shaping up to be quite a year.