The last five polls in Italy suggest that the party of Silvio Berlusconi, Forza Italia, is looking to secure 16-to-18% on election day, March 4.

According to Bloomberg, the average of January’s polls gives Berlusconi’s right-wing alliance a 37% share of the vote.

However, pollsters suggest that this may be underestimating the appeal of Berlusconi’s party. The former premier is leading a coalition that includes populists and far-right nationalists that is 2-3% short of securing an absolute parliamentary majority.

Pollsters suggest that voters unwilling to reveal their voting preference – the so-called “shy factor” – may provide Berlusconi with a stealth political advantage. The “shy factor” is well documented: in 2006 exit polls underestimated the right-wing vote by 5% and in 2009 by 7%.

Berlusconi is banned from public office due to a tax fraud conviction but is likely to emerge as a king-maker, appointing the next Italian prime minister, maintaining control over the future parliamentary majority.

The right-wing alliance is campaigning on an anti-immigration platform, while markets seem to approve the prospect of a Berlusconi-backed administration that would ensure continuity in terms of economic policy.

Leading the polls as a single party is the Five Star Movement (MS5), which however has no apparent partner. The ruling Democratic Party is trailing by 2-7%, but it is losing ground due to internal divisions and the political cost of budgetary consolidation.