Romney’s tax returns have been a major focus of the Obama campaign strategy and have complicated the discussion about taxes by making it about Mitt Romney’s Taxes, not tax policy.

Chart shows topic and sentiment distribution of statements that include the word “tax”.  Time frame is November 1 – July 16.

Chart shows topic and sentiment distribution of statements that include the word “tax”. Time frame is November 1 – July 16.

Mitt Romney has received relentless criticism over his refusal to release his tax returns. According to this recent poll by USA Today/Gallup, most Americans believe that he should release more of his returns. Indeed, when looking at statements that include the word “tax”, only 33% are related to actual tax policy discussion. 17% of the statements in election coverage from November 1 to July 16 that include the word “tax” have been about Candidate Character, 95% of which have been about Romney.

Chart shows sentiment distribution of statements about Candidate Character and include the word “tax”.  Time frame is November 1 – July 16.

Chart shows sentiment distribution of statements about Candidate Character and include the word “tax”. Time frame is November 1 – July 16.

In looking more closely at the statements that include “tax” and are about Candidate Character, 37% are Negative to Romney. Unsurprisingly, the newsmakers that are driving this negativity toward Romney are Obama and his staff. One-quarter of the statements negative to Romney about Character and include the word “tax” come from Obama and his staff. Citizens, academics, journalists, unaligned analysts and members of congress make up the remaining 75% of negativity. This data shows that the Obama campaign has done en excellent job of amplifying this issue and making it an issue across the media space among an assortment of newsmakers.