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Concern about the nation's debt is rising among voters while pessimism is growing about the ability of elected officials to deal with the issue, according to a new index released on Wednesday.
A December fiscal confidence index showed that 58 percent of respondents said the country is on the wrong track on the national debt compared with only 30 percent who said the nation is headed in the right direction, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation's monthly index that measures attitudes about the national debt.
Heading into 2018, voters were less optimistic about the ability of Congress to make progress on the national debt, with only 45 percent optimistic compared with 59 percent who held a positive view at the start of last year.
The latest index showed that 66 percent say their level of concern about the debt has increased in recent years. These attitudes are nearly the same across parties - Democrats (67%), Independents (67%) and Republicans (65%) are all saying their concerns have increased.
"Americans remain united in their concern about our nation's fiscal health as we head into 2018, and for good reason," said Michael Peterson, president and CEO of the Peterson Foundation.
Overall, the index is 51, indicating that heading into an election year, and following a $1.5 trillion tax package being signed into law - voters want a renewed focus on debt this year.
"Our national debt is $20 trillion and growing rapidly, and the recent tax legislation is projected to only make matters worse," Peterson said.
The index, which is based on three components, is on a scale of 0 to 200. Any reading below 100 indicates negative sentiment.
The index showed that concern about the debt is 46, indicating a deep worry about the nation's fiscal health.
The score for debt as a priority that leaders must address is 28, indicating that Americans want elected leaders to make addressing the long-term debt a high priority.
The score for expectations about progress on the debt is 77.
The nationwide poll included 1,005 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between Dec. 18-21. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.