In most polls the margin of error is given as three per cent.
Taking this into account, it's hard to see anything exciting happening in levels of party support this year.
For example look at tomorrow's poll in the Irish Times:
RT News: FG drops further behind Labour - pollFianna Fáil are up 3% since June to 24%, while Fine Gael drop 3% and are also on 24%. Labour have gained 4% to take a commanding lead on 33%.
I reality, this means that Labour can definitely be said to have risen, very slightly, in popularity, and that's all it means. The other parties may well have risen or fallen, but just as easily they may not have moved at all.
Last Sunday the Business Post published the latest in a series of Red C polls, and gave us a graphic of the previous polls this year:
If you exclude the first column, which shows support from the 2007 election, you can see that most parties aren't seeing much actual change in their support, once you take into account the margin of error.
For instance, look at Fine Gael's support since March. They never get very far from around 33 per cent, once you realise that each poll could be out by a margin of three points. They are effectively stuck, as are most of the other parties. The only party showing any movement is Labour, and even that seems to have leveled off in the last few months.
Why does the media get so excited about polls, when the numbers aren't changing that much at all?