The consumer confidence index slumped to 65.1 in December from a downwardly revised 71.5 last month, The Conference Board reported Thursday.
The November index was originally reported as 73.7.
The present situation index jumped to 62.8 from an upwardly revised 57.4, originally reported as 56.6, while the expectations index fell to 66.5 from a downwardly revised 80.9, originally reported as 85.1.
Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted a 70.0 reading for the index.
"Consumers' expectations retreated sharply in December resulting in a decline in the overall index," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "The sudden turnaround in expectations was most likely caused by uncertainty surrounding the oncoming fiscal cliff. A similar decline in expectations was experienced in August of 2011 during the debt ceiling discussions. While consumers are quite negative about the short-term outlook, they are more upbeat than last month about current business and labor market conditions."
Business conditions were called "good" by 17.1% of respondents in December, up from 14.6% in November. Those saying conditions are "bad" dipped to 27.3% from 31.2%.
The percentage of consumers expecting a pickup in business conditions in the next half year slid to 17.6% from 21.3%, while 21.5% said they expect conditions to worsen, up from 15.8% the prior month.
On the jobs front, those who believe jobs are "plentiful" dipped to 10.3% in December from 11.0% in November, while the number saying jobs are "hard to get" declined to 35.6% from 37.4%. The respondents who see fewer jobs becoming available in a half year, increased to 27.3% from 21.2%. Those expecting more jobs to become available slipped to 17.0% from 19.5%, The Conference Board reported.
Income expectations were lower, with 15.4% of consumers anticipating an increase in their income in the next six months, off from the prior month's 15.5%, while 18.7% expect their income to decrease, up from 15.6% in the prior month's survey.
The number of consumers who expected to buy a home in the next six months slumped to 4.8% from 6.6%, while the number of respondents planning to buy a car increased to 12.4% from 11.6%. Fewer consumers than last month said they plan to buy a major appliance in the next six months (44.5% vs. 49.3%).
Fewer respondents than last month (47.7% vs. 52.7%) expect to take a vacation in the next six months, but more said they would stay in the U.S. rather than leave the country. Cars rather than airplanes were the preferred mode of travel, by a 26.7%-18.4% margin.
The consumer confidence survey is based on a probability design random sample by the Nielsen Company.