A new Rasmussen poll of 500 likely Iowa voters, conducted May 13th, finds only 11 percent of Iowans believe the country is heading in the right direction. An astounding 84 percent believe it is off on the wrong track—more than 10 points higher than the previous high during the past decade (73 percent, KCCI-TV / Research 2000, December 2007).

At the end of the Bill Clinton administration nearly ten years ago, in January 1999, 58 percent of Iowans believed the country was headed in the right direction (Iowa Poll). That number dropped off to the mid- to low 40 percent range throughout most of 2002 through 2004. By mid-2005, 36 percent of Iowans viewed the nation as heading in the right direction (SurveyUSA, July 2005). That number dropped to 31 percent in September 2006 (Iowa Poll), 28 percent in January 2007 (Iowa Poll), and 22 percent just before the Iowa Caucuses this year (KCCI-TV / Research 2000, December 2007). That number has now been sliced in half in just five months.

In general, views of the direction of the nation are normally lower than views of the direction of one’s state, and both are usually lower than views on the direction of one’s personal life.

In Iowa, the question in the fall will be how will voters take out their frustration on their depressed views of the country? Will it translate into electing a Democratic president? The new Rasmussen poll shows John McCain in a dead heat with Barack Obama (trailing 44 to 42 percent) and Hillary Clinton (leading 45 to 42 percent).

Or could it translate into rejecting the Democratic controlled state government? Governor Chet Culver won’t be on the ballot, but he is currently enduring the lowest approval ratings of his first term—43 percent—according to a mid-April SurveyUSA poll. Democrats also control both chambers in the state legislature—having taken control of the House in the 2006 election.