ROME Five days before national elections almost a third of Italians have yet to decide who to vote for or are considering not voting at all, a survey showed on Tuesday, highlighting uncertainty over the outcome.
The poll in Corriere della Sera daily showed the proportion of Italians undecided or tempted to abstain has declined from 51.5 percent in December but remains at a significant 27.7 percent less than a week before the vote on Sunday and Monday.
Final polls on February 8, before a legal black-out period set in, indicated that the center-left Democratic Party would win a lower house majority but will need to form a coalition with outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti's centrist grouping.
Silvio Berlusconi's center-right alliance was about 6 percentage points behind the frontrunners. But the hefty proportion of undecided voters means the outcome is still unpredictable and the final days of campaigning will be crucial.
Publication of polls is illegal in the two weeks leading up to the February 24-25 election but analysts are permitted to reveal data on likely participation rates.
Most of the undecided are middle-aged housewives or pensioners with relatively low education levels, mainly living in the south of Italy, and with little interest in politics, pollster Renato Mannheimer of the ISPO institute said.
"More than half of those who are currently undecided or potential abstainers say they can't place themselves on the right or the left," Mannheimer told the Milan daily.
He added it was likely that many people who were yet to decide would probably not vote, based on past electoral trends.
But historical participation rates suggest about 5 million people, or 10 percent of voters, will make up their minds in the last few days, swayed by last-minute promises from party leaders regardless of their place on the political spectrum, he said.
Many polls over the last year have shown Italians disenchanted with a political class clinging to its privileges as the euro zone's third biggest but chronically uncompetitive economy descended deeper into crisis.
(Reporting By Catherine Hornby)