The Midwest…the heartland of America…where caustic coastal cynicism has not yet taken root and a hearty optimism about life in these United States still prevails. Syrupy, true, but that description about life in the Upper Midwest sounds like it might once have been plausible. But, of course, this description simply isn’t true anymore: folks in the Upper Midwest are just as dour about the direction of the nation as those in California and Florida.
In Iowa 59 percent of its citizens think the country is headed in the wrong direction, with just 31 percent feeling the nation is on the right course (Iowa Poll, September 2006).
Minnesotans are a tad more skeptical, with 62 percent believing America is off on the wrong track and just 28 percent believing we’re headed in the right direction (Pioneer Press / MPR, September 2006).
A stunning 68 percent of Wisconsinites think the country is going in the wrong direction, with only 27 percent feeling the United States is on the right path (Wisconsin Public Research Institute, June 2006).
The latest related polling in South Dakota is a year old, but the trend at that time was the same: 63 percent wrong direction, 32 percent right direction (Survey USA)—a 43 point net swing in negativity from a Daily Republic poll from just a year and a half prior (March 2004).
The extent of how this malaise will impact voter turnout and the fate of incumbents in November 2006 is yet to be determined, as citizens in all four states are more optimistic about the direction of their particular states. But—all things being equal—when the glasses of Upper Midwesterners turn from rose-colored to cloudy, those in power should be at least a bit nervous.