SEVERAL recent polls show that Americans are disillusioned, confused and ready to believe practically anything.

This helps explain the Republican sweep in November's midterm elections.Americans, desperate and grasping for straws, quickly lost faith in President Clinton's "New Democrat" leadership. Clinton failed to provide quick, easy fixes to the nation's problems. And he didn't help himself or his party by being indecisive when Americans wanted action.

Republicans, special interest lobbies and talk-radio colporteurs of doom reminded voters daily of Clinton's failures. And they offered facile fixes.

Eager-to-believe voters put their faith in the Republicans' Contract with America. Newt's Creed promised heavenly rewards of national security, safe streets, balanced budgets, less government, family values and more money for everyone.

The readiness of Americans to believe in practically anything was revealed in a recent investigation that showed 40 percent of young Americans believe in unidentified flying objects. UFOs. Space aliens. Little green men.

Also, 40 percent of Americans admit they talk to the dead. What's more, 36 percent say they've had two-way conversations with the dead. You're not crazy, the saying goes, if you talk to yourself, only when you start answering back. Could more than a third of the nation really be daft?

A full 20 percent of Americans believe in astrology. Astrologers outnumber astronomers 20 to one.

Confused Americans even believe they can come up with a scheme to beat the lottery. This is superstition, according to a Cox News Service article, because any number hit is a fluke. That's true for others, I'm sure, but those researchers don't know about my secret system.

One expert attributes an unprecedented growth in astrology, cults and sightings of ghosts to a loss of optimism and faith in traditional institutions.

The lemminglike urge to find simple answers to complicated issues could explain the stampede to get on board with Rush Limbaugh, an unschooled disc jockey turned overnight political savant.

The same goes for Ross Perot's phenomenal support. Perot got nearly 20 percent of the 1992 presidential vote even after he quit the race and revealed himself to be a conspiracy-minded crackpot. But he offered simple answers to complex questions. It's easy, he said. Just lift the hood and fix it.

A disillusioned and confused nation ready to believe any quick-fix artist who comes along runs a high risk of being scammed. Besides losing money to drum-beating rainmakers, a gullible public demanding quick fixes also is vulnerable to being led astray by demagogues.

On the bright side, there's the possibility that someone's quick fix might work. And I might win the lottery.