You're dissatisfied.

How do I know this? For one thing, I open my mail each day and listen to you complain about virtually everything having to do with politics. For another, Gallup told me so.

With only days left before the election, a new Gallup poll has found that only 21 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. Unless that improves, it will be the lowest satisfaction rate at a midterm election since the organization started measuring such things more than 30 years ago.

The previous low was 24 percent, in September of 1982. The economy hadn't quite worked its way out of a recession back then, either.

The real surprise to me is that 21 percent of you actually are satisfied. I know one thing, those people aren't sending me e-mails or writing letters to the editor. They're either working for a politician who isn't up for election this year or they have tenure.

But the burning question is, will you vote?

That question seems to have been burning in this country almost from the beginning. That's also about how long people have been lamenting that too many Americans don't vote.

In Utah, voter participation has been lagging lately. The state had among the lowest voting rates in the nation during the last two elections.

Statistics like those can be misleading. Dr. Michael McDonald of George Mason University compiles statistics that take the number of people who voted for the highest office on the ballot and divides that by the number of people who were eligible to vote.

Using that measure, he found a 31.8 percent participation rate in Utah in the last midterm election in 2006. That wasn't the worst in the land. Texas, for example, came in at 25.8 percent and the District of Columbia was 25.5. But it was right down there with the worst of them, and certainly way below Minnesota's 56.4 percent.

So, what gives, Beehive staters?

Way back 1830, Alexis de Tocqueville made the observation that Americans seem motivated most by self-interest.

"[i]t is difficult to force a man out of himself and get him to take an interest in the affairs of the whole state, for he has little understanding of the way in which the fate of the state can influence his own lot," he wrote. "But if it is a question of taking a road past his property, he sees at once that this small public matter has a bearing on his greatest private interests, and there is no need to point out to him the close connection between his private profit and the general interest."

Fourteen years ago in this column, I made somewhat the same observation after watching a debate between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, in which the audience asked questions. An ex-smoker asked Dole to clarify his earlier statements about smoking. A doctor and a nurse asked about health care. A military man asked about military wages. And unemployed woman asked about welfare reform.

At the end, Dole said he was sorry no one asked a foreign-policy questions. But that was no surprise. No one in the audience happened to live overseas.

Spend a little time around local government and you'll understand the power of self-interest. The Jordan School District didn't have many people at its regular board meetings until it decided it might raise taxes or lay off teachers last year. Taxes always count as the proverbial road past our property. So does anything that affects the wallet.

And that explains why people are so dissatisfied right now with everything from health care reform to the unemployment rate.

So, will you vote?

Perhaps people don't always relate every local race to a road going by their property. That's a pity, because if you're really dissatisfied with America, your only meaningful way to express it comes Nov. 2.

Jay Evensen is a Deseret News editorial writer. E-mail: [email protected]. Visit his blog at