Fifty-nine percent of voters in Okinawa Prefecture oppose land reclamation for a new U.S. air station in Nago, far exceeding 16 percent who support the project, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed Feb. 18.

Twenty-one percent said they neither oppose nor support the landfill work, according to the telephone survey conducted on Feb. 16 and 17, a week before the Feb. 24 prefectural referendum on the issue.

The central government has started the reclamation work off the Henoko district of Nago for a facility that will take over the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma now in densely populated Ginowan in the prefecture.

Although the central government has indicated it will ignore the referendum’s results, which are not legally binding, 80 percent of all respondents in the survey said Tokyo should respect the will of the voters.

Interest is high in the referendum, which will give voters three choices on the landfill work: support, oppose or no opinion either way.

According to the survey, 51 percent said they are very much interested in the referendum, while 33 percent answered they are somewhat interested.

Among the 51 percent, 82 percent said they oppose the land reclamation, 12 percent support it, and 5 percent said they neither oppose nor support the work.

However, the survey results may differ from the actual tally of the referendum because some of the respondents would not vote on Feb. 24.

In response to a question on whether they plan to cast their ballots in the referendum, 71 percent said they will go to the polling stations by all means.

In general, the ratio of survey respondents who say they will definitely vote tends to be high, so 71 percent is not an estimate of the actual turnout rate for the referendum.

Among the 71 percent, 73 percent said they oppose the land reclamation, compared with 14 percent who support it and 10 percent who took no stance on the issue.

The rate of respondents who oppose the work off Henoko increased among those with a higher interest in the referendum.

The approval rate for Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who opposes the Futenma relocation plan, stood at 85 percent, while his disapproval rate was 15 percent.

The survey was conducted through land-line telephones on 2,138 households randomly chosen by computer. It received, 1,125 valid responses, or 53 percent, from the total contacted.