Photo/Illutration(The Asahi Shimbun)

The resounding "No" vote in the Feb. 24 referendum held in Okinawa Prefecture over the relocation of a U.S. military base was pretty much expected, but there were surprises, too.

Among supporters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the majority cast ballots against moves by the Abe administration to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago, according to an exit poll by The Asahi Shimbun.

Also, 55 percent of supporters of the LDP's junior coalition partner, Komeito, voted against. Among unaffiliated voters, 79 percent answered "oppose" on the ballot, according to the exit poll.

Another finding was that 79 percent of all voters in Okinawa do not approve of the strong-arm tactics taken by the Abe administration on the issue of U.S. bases in the southernmost prefecture, which hosts about 70 percent of all U.S. military facilities in Japan.

Of those voters, 85 percent voted “oppose” when asked to choose between supporting or opposing the Futenma relocation.

According to the exit poll, the majority of Okinawan voters cast ‘No’ regardless of age and party affiliation.

It emerged that the older the voters were, the more adamant they were in their opposition. Sixty percent of voters in their 30s and younger expressed opposition, compared with 70 percent of those in their 40s and 50s, and over 80 percent among those older than 60.

According to the party affiliation, 45 percent of the LDP supporters answered “oppose” on the ballot paper.

When Okinawa held its gubernatorial election last September that Denny Tamaki won handily, supporters of the LDP made up 33 percent of all voters on election day. But in the Feb. 24 referendum, the proportion of the LDP supporters was considerably diminished, at just 19 percent.

On the other hand, a relatively large 23 percent of voters in their 20s chose “support” on the ballot paper, expressing their acceptance of the contentious Henoko land reclamation project.

In the same group, a relatively large 15 percent chose the third answer, “No opinion either way.”

The exit poll suggested that the older the voter was, the answer of “support” and “No opinion either way” was more frequent.

The exit poll also asked voters’ opinions about the overall issue of U.S. military bases in Okinawa in light of the massive concentration of U.S. forces there.

Seventeen percent said “I can accept,” while 80 percent said “I cannot accept.”

With regard to the confrontational stance taken by Okinawa prefectural authorities with the central government over construction of the Futenma replacement facility, 71 percent expressed approval, including those who answered “largely” and “to some extent.”

In response to a question about an alternative construction site for the Futenma base, 44 percent said “outside of Japan” and 33 percent said “inside of Japan but outside of Okinawa.” Only 11 percent said, “It’s OK to be in Henoko.”

The exit poll suggests that the Abe administration’s approach to the Okinawa base issues has not earned it any kudos, even among supporters of the Henoko project.

Among those who chose “support” on the ballot question, 40 percent said they “disapprove” of the administration’s stance on the issue of U.S. bases in Okinawa. Of that figure, 45 percent said “I cannot accept” the concentration of the bases in Okinawa. The position taken by the prefectural government on the issue earned a 48 percent approval rating from those voters.

Among those who answered “No opinion either way” on the ballot question, 68 percent disapproved of the Abe administration’s stance on the base issue, and 70 percent said “I cannot accept” that they are concentrated in Okinawa.

With regard to the stance taken by the prefectural government, “approve” and “disapprove” answers were about the same.

The exit poll was conducted at 60 polling places, and 3,173 valid responses were collected.