Opinion poll puts Sinn Féin on target to be Stormont's largest party
SINN Féin remains on course to be Stormont's biggest party after next week's election, according to the latest opinion poll.
If the results are reflected by votes cast at the ballot box on Thursday, it will be the first time that a nationalist party has been assembly's largest.
That would allow Sinn Féin to nominate the next first minister, likely to be their vice president Michelle O'Neill.
Support for Sinn Féin is now at 26 per cent with the DUP on 20 per cent, according to the latest LucidTalk poll commissioned by the Belfast Telegraph.
However, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he is confident his party will win the Stormont election despite trailing its republican rival by six percentage points.
At the last assembly election in 2017, the DUP attracted 28 per cent of first-preference votes and returned 28 MLAs, ahead of Sinn Fein who then received 27 per cent of first-preference votes and returned 27 MLAs.
Sir Jeffrey told the PA news agency he believes the DUP is going to win this election.
"I think the polls are not reflective of what I find on the doors in Northern Ireland," he said.
"As we're going around, there is strong support for the DUP, most unionists recognise the DUP is the only unionist party that can win, they don't want to see Sinn Féin winning and taking forward their divisive border poll agenda.
"Most unionists recognise there is a clear choice in this election, the DUP's five-point plan or Sinn F''in's divisive border poll plan and I think on May 5 we're going to see unionists voting for the DUP and transferring their votes to other unionist parties because not only do I want the DUP to win, I want to see unionism win more seats as well and that's entirely possible in a number of constituencies.
"I'm not bothered by polls and I think the political pundits who stake their reputation on the results of polls might get a surprise on May 5."
The LucidTalk poll puts the Alliance Party and the UUP on 14 per cent each, the SDLP on 10 per cent, TUV on 9 per cent, Green Party on 3 per cent, People Before Profit on 2 per cent and others and independents on 2 per cent.
TUV East Belfast candidate John Ross said he believes the poll "underestimates the scale of the TUV surge".
He also complained about the party's exclusion from TV leaders' debates.
The TUV had one MLA in the last mandate but are targeting gains in this election.
"In excluding TUV from the leaders' debates broadcasters are, Canute-like, seeking to stop the tide. They, like he, will fail," Mr Ross said.
The Lucidtalk poll was carried out online on April 22-24 using its established online opinion panel, comprising of 13,816 members, which it states is balanced to be demographically representative of Northern Ireland.
The latest poll results were based on 3,699 full responses which were authenticated, audited and weighted to a NI-representative data-set of 1,708 responses which was used for analysis in terms of the final results.
Lucidtalk say all results are accurate in terms of being Northern Ireland representative to within an error of plus or minus 2.3 per cent at 95 per cent confidence.