Americans weigh in on what the election is about for them

In the final weeks of the increasingly contentious presidential campaign, CBC News reporters spoke to people in key states and asked: "What, to you, is this election about?"

Voters go to the polls tomorrow, after a long and bitter campaign

We asked voters to tell us what's driving their decision on election day 1:25

The long, divisive U.S. election campaign has pitted celebrity businessman Donald Trump against longtime politician Hillary Clinton. It has roiled the political establishment, dragged on in the media and caused rifts as people line up behind either Trump's bid to "Make America Great Again" or Clinton's claim that America is "Stronger Together."

CBC News reporters in key states in the U.S. have been covering the long, hard-fought and deeply personal U.S. presidential race. While in the field, the reporters asked people they encountered one key question: "What, to you, is this election about?"

Here are excerpts of some of their responses.


Brittany Karlik, 18-year-old student 

Brittany Karlik, 18, says the U.S. can't help other countries 'if we can't even help ourselves as a nation.' (Jason Burles/CBC News)

Brittany Karlik, a student at Arizona State University in Glendale, Ariz., says to her, the election has been about America falling behind as a country in terms of its place on the world stage.

"And honestly, the biggest thing — we're not even gonna be able to help these other countries if we can't even help ourselves as a nation. That's one of the biggest reason why I support Trump and why I want to make America great again."

Addison Tharp, 18-year-old student 

Addison Tharp, 18, says this election is a 'turning point' with people focused on tackling issues like racism. (Jason Burles/CBC News)

Addison Tharp, who is also a student at Arizona State University, says that from her perspective the U.S. election is about the future and how to make it better for both the United States and the rest of the world's citizens.

She says Trump isn't "thinking about what he can do for the world. He's thinking about what he can do for himself. And I am not saying that Hillary is any better. Certainly a corrupt president isn't what we need ... but she's at least got more experience with the world.

"If we choose Hillary, I think it's gonna be better. If we choose Trump, we're going back in time." 

Jim Chilton, 77-year-old rancher

Jim Chilton, a 77-year-old rancher from Arivaca, Ariz., says the Supreme Court has been the most pressing issue for him during this election. (Jason Burles/CBC News)

Jim Chilton, a rancher in Arivaca, Ariz., says the main issue for him is who is going to appoint Supreme Court justices.

"If it's Hillary, she will appoint justices that represent her line of thinking, which is that the Constitution is a living, changing document.

"If Trump is elected, I think that he will appoint people like Scalia, who saw the Constitution as a document representing the thoughts through the ages and the creation of separation of powers and a strict interpretation of the Constitution." 

Linda Mazon-Gutierrez, 66-year-old CEO of Hispanic Women's Corp.

Linda Mazon-Gutierrez, president and CEO of the Hispanic Women's Corporation in Tucson, Ariz., says she's excited her vote could help elect the first woman to the presidency. (Jason Burles/CBC News)

Linda Mazon-Gutierrez, a Mexican-American born in Phoenix, cited the possibility of a woman president as the core issue of the election for her.

Mazon-Gutierrez is "just so excited to think that my singular vote" will help elect a female president of the United States, "who is educated, who is articulate and experienced in global affairs."

"I like her attitude of kindness toward our Hispanic population, because we're not feeling that with Trump, not at all."


Arthur Alexander, 44-year-old groundskeeper

Arthur Alexander says this election is 'probably the first election I will not vote in, because obviously I'm not happy about any of the candidates.' (Matt Kwong/CBC News)

Arthur Alexander, who lives in Mobile, Ala., says this election "does not mean much" to him.

It "will probably be the first election I will not vote in, because obviously I'm not happy about any of the candidates."

Alexander adds that police brutality is a major issue for him, and one that has come to the fore in this election. However, he's not optimistic that either Trump or Clinton will able to act as an effective agent of change. 

"That's another thing that's been going on forever in this country that's just come to light in a visible way that everybody can actually see and be aware that it's going on. But as far as any one of the candidates changing that, I don't see that happening."

Marcus Willis, 57, musician

Marcus Willis, a musician who lives in Mobile, Ala., says he's had enough of 'the Clintons, the Bushes, the cronyism.' (Matt Kwong/CBC News)

Marcus Willis, a musician in Mobile, says this election is "all about the Supreme Court."

"Hillary and Trump's gonna be gone within eight years. But the Supreme Court positions and the Second Amendment positions, right of free speech, those things are the foundation of our country, and that's what I'm voting for. I'm not a huge fan of Trump, he would not have been my pick for the GOP, but he is not a politician and he's made that clear."

Willis calls himself a constitutional conservative and says he's had "enough of the Clintons, the Bushes, the cronyism."

Anthony Thomson, 55 

Anthony Thomson, 55, says job security and giving kids a fair shot at success are driving his vote. He says Clinton is 'overwhelmingly' qualified. (Matt Kwong/CBC News)

"To me, this election is about civility, jobs and the right person for the job," says Anthony Thomson, a truck driver who lives near Mobile.

"Hillary Clinton is the best qualified candidate right now for this office."

Michael Linder, 40

Michael Linder, 40, says to him the election is about 'whether it's going to be a civil democracy where we are fundamentally about the truth and facts, or whether it's about stoking emotions and tribalism.' (Matt Kwong/CBC News)

Michael Linder, an attorney in Mobile, says to him the election is about "whether our democracy means anything anymore. And whether it's going to be a civil democracy, where we are fundamentally about the truth and facts, or whether it's about stoking emotions and tribalism."

Linder says he is "not wholeheartedly" voting for Clinton.

New York City, N.Y.

John Gianni, 47-year-old construction worker 

John Gianni says he supports the Republican nominee because 'he's not a politician' and he 'says it as it is.' (Jonathan Castell/CBC News)

For John Gianni, the election is about "the survival of this nation." 

Gianni, a lifelong New Yorker, is fervently opposed to Hillary Clinton and wants to see change. He says he's voting for Donald Trump.

"If Hillary ever gets in that White House, we're done as a nation. I've said that even 10 years ago. Trump is the last hope.

"No one owns him, no one pays him. Hillary's owned by everyone, everyone pays her."

Char Singleton, 59

Lifelong New Yorker Char Singleton, 59, says 'no matter if you like her or not' you can't argue that Hillary Clinton isn't qualified. (Jonarhan Castell/CBC News)

Singleton, another  lifelong New Yorker, is focused on qualifications for the job of running the country.

"I think it's very embarrassing that we have these choices," Singleton says.

"Hillary, yes, no matter if you like her or not, you can't say that she's not qualified, because she is. But for Mr. Trump, I just think it's embarrassing, very embarrassing."


Kyla McElroy, 21, stay-at-home parent

Kyla McElroy, a stay-at-home mom, says she's thinking about the future and what the world will be like for her kids and grandkids. (Matt Kwong/CBC News)

Kyla McElroy, who is raising her kids in Pensacola, Fla., says to her, the election is about not only her future but that of her kids and "others I haven't met, my grandchildren. And the future means a lot.

"The whole abortion process, as well as the right to have guns, those are the major things. Freedom of speech, that's what I care about."

Jerry Schmidt, 65, car rental agent

Car rental agent Jerry Schmidt says he's voting for Trump. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

Jerry Schmidt, who works in Pensacola, says that from his perspective the election is about the "direction of our country."

"I think controlling our borders and vetting people getting into this country is very important. We need to know who's coming in and not let dangerous people in."

He says he knows some people have issues with Trump, but he likes what he's seen of the Republican's choices for vice-president, the Supreme Court and cabinet.

"We need to bring the country back to the right, I think we've gone too far left."

Follow the U.S. election on Nov. 8 with CBC News

CBC Online: Our day starts first thing in the morning at with news and analysis. Then as polls close get live results and insights into the conversations happening on the ground and online. We'll cover the story from a Canadian perspective all day until a new U.S. president is unveiled.

CBC Television: America Votes, the CBC News election special with Peter Mansbridge, starts at 8 p.m. ET on News Network and at 9 p.m. ET on CBC-TV. You can also watch our election special through the CBC News app on both AppleTV and Android TV, and on the CBC News YouTube channel.

CBC Radio One: Our election special hosted by Susan Bonner and Michael Enright starts at 8 p.m. ET.

With files from Paul Hunter, Marie Caloz, Matthew Kwong and Jonathan Castell