After being bombarded with election news and campaign ads for months, Americans will be asked to choose the man they want to lead the U.S. for the next four years on November 4.  How will they arrive at the decision?  VOA's Susan Logue went in search of some insight.

For the party faithful, deciding who will be the next American president is an easy decision.  Most, like Adriana Codero, have known for a while who they will vote for on Election Day.  "I always vote Democrat, pretty much, because I tend to agree with them."

Political analyst Dotty Lynch of American University says independent voters may spend some time choosing their candidate. "Many people like both of the candidates," she says, "so they are trying to figure out which one will really do something about the issues they care about."

Economy main, but not only issue

Overwhelmingly, the economy is the issue on most Americans' minds.  Polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe Senator Obama will do a better job at turning the economy around. Danny Williams agrees.  

"Barack Obama is a smarter guy on those type of topics," Williams says.  "McCain, he is a fighter and everything.  I like a lot of things he stands for, but given the situation, I'd definitely go with Barack Obama."

But some Americans are concerned with issues other than the economy.  They are looking for a president who shares their views on social issues, such as whether women should continue to have the right to an abortion, or whether gay couples should be allowed to get married.  

"I'm voting for Senator McCain," says Dan Ciszewski.  "The issues that are important to me are moral and ethical issues, and I read both of the candidates' positions on these issues and his values more align with mine."

Dotty Lynch says Americans are taking the presidential race and their vote seriously, "really wanting to make sure in their own minds that the candidate they choose is going to be able to solve the problems they care about most."

Judgment and character count

That choice is often based on more than simply how the candidates say they will solve those problems.  "I don't think either of them can handle all of the issues of being a president," says Sterling Jenson, "so their judgment is mainly what I am looking for."

Many Americans have also said they believe Barack Obama's race - his mother was a white American and his father was a black African - makes a difference to them in this election.  Some voters say they are excited by the prospect of the first African American U.S. president; other voters express misgivings about electing a black president.

But for voter Shannon Hibbard, race isn't the issue.  "I just go by usually who I have an instinct is a good person and somebody I can trust," she says.

TV still main, but not only source of information

Lynch says Americans get most of their information about the candidates and their positions from television.  But there are other sources voters turn to.

George Wilson says he reads as many newspapers as possible and has had conversations with people working with the campaigns.

Mitchell Cooper, 88, reads a good deal, and notes, "being in Washington you associate with a lot of people whose judgment you respect."

Rachel Lask, 23, turned to the Internet. "I did Google searches and different searches just to see different viewpoints of the candidates."

The Internet is an increasingly common way for Americans to educate themselves on the candidates and the issues, says American University's Dotty Lynch.  "People can go to candidates' Websites.  They can go to various news organizations' Websites.  We are seeing there are a lot of clicks on those sites."

By now, Dotty Lynch says, most Americans have made up their minds whether they want to see Barack Obama or John McCain in the White House next January, but some may wait until they're in the voting booth on November 4th before they finally decide.