Most want Romney to release more tax returns

screenshot of Obama ad
An Obama campaign ad pressuring Romney to release more tax returns.

A majority of Americans believe Mitt Romney should release more tax returns, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday.

Fifty-four percent of adults nationwide say the presumptive Republican presidential nominee should provide further returns to the public. That includes three in four Democrats, more than half of independents, and 30 percent of Republicans.

Thirty-seven percent say Romney should not release additional returns. The remaining nine percent had no opinion.

Romney has released his 2010 returns and promised to release his 2011 return when it is completed. Democrats and some Republicans say that Romney should release further returns, noting that Romney's father George released 12 years of returns when he ran for president.

Romney and his surrogates have insisted that two years of returns conforms to standard practice, noting that Sen. John McCain only released two years of returns when he ran for president four years ago. But most recent nominees have released far more information: John Kerry released 20 years of returns, George W. Bush and Al Gore released nine years of returns, and President Obama released seven years of returns.

Romney has also suggested that releasing more returns will allow his political opponents to twist the truth.

"Their opposition people look for anything they can find to distort, to twist, and to try and make negative, and I want to make this a campaign about the economy and creating jobs," he said earlier this week in Pennsylvania.

The Obama campaign says Romney must release the returns so that Americans have a better sense of how the wealthy former businessman - who has estimated his net worth at up to $250 million - made his money.

Democrats have cast Romney as a potential "outsourcer-in-chief" over his time at private equity firm Bain Capital. Romney says that he had little to do with the company between 1999 and 2002, when he was paid a yearly salary and was the titular head of Bain, because he was running the Salt Lake City Olympics. Some have speculated that one reason Romney does not want to release the returns is that he did not pay any taxes in 2009; the Romney campaign says that is not the case.

Forty-four percent of Americans said in the Gallup/USA Today poll that releasing the returns would hurt Romney's campaign, including 15 percent who say they would reveal information that he is unfit to be president. Forty-two percent say they do not believe the tax returns would reveal harmful information.

Americans are split on whether voters need to see tax returns to make determinations about a presidential candidate. Forty-four percent say they provide legitimate information to voters, while 47 percent say they are largely irrelevant to voters.

Many of the members of Congress who have criticized Romney for not releasing his returns, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, have refused to release their own returns.

The survey of 539 adults, which was taken on Wednesday, has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.