Photo/IllutrationVoters clap at a Nago mayoral election campaign event in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on Jan. 28. (Kengo Hiyoshi)

NAHA--The two candidates are neck and neck in the Nago mayoral race where the top campaign issue, the U.S. military base relocation project, is opposed by the incumbent and supported by the sole Abe administration-backed challenger.

However, 63 percent of voters oppose the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the new base off Nago’s Henoko district, while only 20 percent support it. Furthermore, 20 percent of eligible voters have not revealed whom they will vote for on Feb. 4.

The findings are based on analysis of results of a joint telephone survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and the Naha-based Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting Corp. on Jan. 28-29, and news-gathering activities.

Mayor Susumu Inamine, 72, a staunch base relocation opponent, is seeking a third four-year term, while Taketoyo Toguchi, 56, a former Nago municipal assembly member, is aiming to unseat his rival by focusing on the urgency of galvanizing the local economy, making him effectively in favor of the project.

The survey showed that voters are almost equally divided over which is the most important consideration in picking a candidate: the Futenma relocation issue, at 41 percent, and measures to promote regional development, at 39 percent.

In the previous survey four years ago, 56 percent chose the relocation as the key issue, while 23 percent picked measures to invigorate the local economy.

Most of the respondents who regard the U.S. base issue as the most important question replied that they support Inamine, and a vast majority of people who place the utmost importance on economic measures said they back Toguchi.

The survey also showed that 63 percent object to the relocation of the Futenma facility to the new air station under construction off Henoko, while 20 percent support it.

The proportion of voters for and against the relocation was almost the same as in the 2014 survey, when 64 percent opposed it and 19 percent were in favor.

In the last survey, 18- and 19-year-olds were not included because they were not eligible to vote.

The latest survey targeting Nago residents was conducted by calling home telephone numbers selected at random by a computer. A valid response was received from 673 of 1,439 numbers that were found in homes with at least one eligible voter.

The analysis of respondents who have made up their mind about their favored candidate showed that Inamine has the support of 70 percent of unaffiliated voters, in addition to supporters of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties.

By gender, more than 60 percent of women back Inamine.

By age group, Inamine receives greater support from middle-age or older people.

Toguchi has strong support among Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, with 90 percent of LDP supporters backing him, according to the survey.

In addition, a large majority of the people who back Komeito, LDP’s junior partner in the ruling coalition, also support Toguchi.

In the 2014 election, Komeito did not side with a particular candidate, leaving the decision to individual supporters.

Toguchi also garners more support from those aged 30 or younger, according to the survey.