Okinawa poll reveals more than 74 percent oppose Henoko relocation, 70 percent consider base concentration “unjust”

May 9, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

On May 8, ahead of the 45th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty on May 15, Ryukyu Shimpo finished conducting an Okinawa prefectural public opinion poll by telephone. Out of the respondents, those that said the reversion was either “very good” or “rather good” reached a total of 75.5 percent. Three out of four persons contacted responded to the poll, a 4.5 percent drop from a similar public poll conducted five years prior.

Regarding relocation of Futenma Air Station from Ginowan City, 74.1 percent of respondents demand the immediate removal of the base outside of Okinawa or outside of Japan. Approval of the current plan to build a replacement facility in Henoko, Nago, reached 18 percent, much higher than in the prior poll.

Each respondent was allowed to choose up to three reasons why reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty was positive. Out of respondents, 50.5 percent say it is because cultural and information exchange with mainland Japan has increased; 50 percent feel that infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and ports have been better maintained. Below the half-of-respondents mark, 40.7 percent think that medical services and welfare have improved, 32.4 percent say education has improved, and 20.2 percent feel that Okinawans’ have richer lifestyles. Only 4 percent answered that harm from US military bases has decreased.

On the other hand, respondents were also allowed to choose three reasons why reversion was negative. Many more people think harm from US military bases has increased at 43.7 percent of respondents, 36.2 percent say nature has been destroyed, and only slightly less at 36 percent feel the cost of living has risen. There are also those who think that Okinawan traditions and culture are fading at 22.9 percent, and 21.1 percent are concerned at Okinawa’s population decline due to Okinawans leaving the islands and other causes.

Respondents could also choose up to three measures they want to see the central government and Okinawan government pursue. Most, at 43.7 percent, wanted to see the consolidation and reduction of US military bases as well as utilization of former base land. Other measures desired are promotion of the tourism industry at 31.1 percent, improvements to social welfare at 28 percent, and promotion of education and culture at 27.3 percent.

There is a large disparity concerning the current concentration of US military bases in Okinawa. While 70 percent think the situation is unjust, only 24.7 think it is unavoidable.

Concerning the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), 43.3 percent want it substantially amended and 25.8 percent think its implementation should be improved. However, 17.1 percent want the SOFA to be discarded along with the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and 8.4 percent feel the SOFA is fine in its current state.

The poll also addressed Governor Takeshi Onaga’s approval rating. Of those who responded, 66.7 percent support him, 19.3 percent do not support him, and 14 percent are unsure.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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