Photo/IllutrationProtesters opposed to the hosting of U.S. military bases hold protest banners at the front gate of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area in Higashi, Okinawa Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

NAHA--Ahead of the Sept. 30 Okinawa governor election, 63 percent of respondents in Okinawa Prefecture said they oppose the Abe Cabinet's policy toward U.S. military bases, while only 14 percent support it.

The prefecture-wide poll was conducted Sept. 22-23 through a collaboration of The Okinawa Times, Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting Corp. and The Asahi Shimbun.

The Abe administration is emphasizing its efforts to lessen Okinawans’ burden over hosting U.S. military bases including returning about half the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area and the Nishi-Futenma residential district of Camp Foster to Japan.

The Abe government is also pushing forward on the construction of a new base in the Henoko point of Nago to assume the functions of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, both in the prefecture. Some portions of the seawall off the coast of Henoko have been connected and earth is about to be poured for land reclamation work.

The survey results show an apparent backlash among prefectural residents to such actions taken by the administration.

Ahead of the gubernatorial election, many of those who do not approve of the Abe policy toward the U.S. military bases said they support Denny Tamaki, who is opposing the relocation of the Futenma base within the prefecture.

Tamaki has the backing of the “All Okinawa” movement, a coalition of the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, labor unions and businesses that supported the late Governor Takeshi Onaga.

Many of those who approve of the Abe policy said they support Tamaki’s rival, Atsushi Sakima, who is endorsed by the Abe administration and most of the supporters of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, a junior partner in the ruling coalition.

In the survey, 25 percent also said they endorse the relocation of a U.S. military base to the Henoko district, while 50 percent said they oppose the project.

Of the respondents who support the relocation, 40 percent said they approve of the Abe's administration's stance, while an equal 40 percent said they do not.

Asked to choose the most important campaign issue out of four responses, 42 percent picked the U.S. base issue, followed by revitalizing the local economy, at 35 percent.

Looking at polls prior to past gubernatorial elections, the ratio of those who said the U.S. base issue was the highest priority was 26 percent in 2006 and 36 percent in 2010.

Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who said revitalizing the local economy was the most important issue was 52 percent in 2006 and 49 percent in 2010.

However, in the poll prior to the previous governor election in 2014, the ratio of those prioritizing the U.S. base issue was 45 percent, exceeding the respondents for revitalizing the local economy, 38 percent. A similar trend was seen in the latest poll.

Of the respondents, the majority of those who had voted to elect Onaga, who died of cancer in early August, support Tamaki. Tamaki is one of the two candidates that Onaga named as a possible successor in a recording released after his death.

Of the telephone numbers selected, the number of households with at least one eligible voter was 2,118. There were 915 valid responses, or 43 percent of those households contacted.