By Mason Johnson

The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.

With an election cycle more bloated than ever, you can’t go anywhere without Trump invading your world. His followers, his detractors and everyone in between are to blame, filling every television screen, computer monitor, Facebook feed and dinner conversation with his exploits.

But how many people actually support Trump?

Probably fewer than you think.

You have to consider the fact that Trump supporters — passionate as they may be — are a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of America. Skewed TV news coverage would have you think otherwise, but don’t forget, the subset of America that actually owns a TV and tunes into news programs during their actual time slots — a foreign concept for millennials — is a specific audience that’s a little older and a little more conservative (recent Nielsen ratings imply as much).

Anyway, before I can explain how many actual Trump supporters likely exist, I need to warn you: these numbers are, at best, a guesstimate. (Sorry, I hate that word too.)

For one, I can’t attempt to come to a number without consulting polls. In my personal opinion, most political polls are charlatan magic, numbers for news organizations to use to boost ratings and political candidates to selectively use to boost their personal image. Their actual contribution to the public at large is questionable. For a primer on polls and how they work, click here.

On top of that, it’s become increasingly difficult to divide voters by political party, with more Americans identifying as independents than ever.

Despite this, I still tried to determine how many Americans actually support the Donald.

First, you have to consider that many adults are not registered to vote. With about 219,941,000 people over the age of 18, only about 64.6 percent of adults are actually registered, or about 142,166,000 people.

But how many of those are likely to vote for Trump?

Since he’s currently running as a Republican, we’ll pull from Americans who identify as Republicans.

With 39 percent of Americans identifying as independents, only 23 percent of Americans identify as Republican.

But, Donald’s a bit of a fringe candidate. For the sake of this experiment, I’m happy to consider throwing independents who lean Republican into the mix. This brings us to 39 percent of voting Americans identifying as Republican or leaning Republican.

That’s about 55,445,000 million people.

Nationally, among Republicans running for president, Trump’s poll average is about 33 percent. Which leaves us with a magical number…

Possible number of actual Trump supporters in America: about 18,297,000.

That’s a big number, but to put things in perspective, that’s only about 12.9 percent of all voters.

Of course, that number would drastically increase if he won the Republican nomination.

What if Trump lost the nomination? According to one poll, 68 percent of his supporters say they would vote for him if he ran as an independent, or about 12,442,000 people if the above number is at all accurate. So about 8.8 percent of all American voters really, really love Trump.

Instead of trying to divine party affiliations of independents, we can also separate party lines along the results of the 2012 presidential election.

In this instance, with Republicans garnering 47.2 percent of the 2012 popular vote, you have 60,933,500 people. That would leave us with about 20,108,000 Trump supporters, or 13,874,557 if he runs as an independent; or about 15.6 percent and 10.75 percent of voters (assuming the same number of voters from 2012 will vote in the upcoming election, which is a pretty big assumption).

So, right now, the percentage of likely voters who support trump is somewhere between eight percent and 16 percent.

With reliable and timely polls for Illinois hard to come by — the most recent polls appear to be from the summer — it’s tough to say how many Trump supporters are in the Prairie State. In the 2012 presidential election, about 40.73 percent of Illinois’ 5,242,014 voters voted Republican. From that pool of 2,135,216 voters, if Trump is as popular in Illinois as he is nationally, it’s possible that Trump has as many as 704,621 supporters right here in our backyard. Considering the fact we tend to lean Democrat for presidents, even with the occasional Republican governor, that number is likely smaller.

Nationally, who knows how big of a chunk of America’s independents — keeping in mind that about 16 percent of Americans consider themselves independents that lean toward Democrat — would actually support Trump if he ends up making it past the primaries.

Interestingly, if you went through this same exercise with Bernie Sanders, you’d likely come up with numbers similar to Trump’s. Currently, Sanders is polling at about 31.2 percent, behind Hillary Clinton by about 24.1 points. According to current poll averages, a Trump/Sanders election would be even, with both candidates polling 43.7 percent when pitted against each other. That’s impressive, considering Trump has obtained significantly more TV airtime than Sanders.

If these numbers tell us anything though, it’s that Americans political beliefs have slowly shifted away from the country’s two most popular political parties. Considering the extreme and polarizing rhetoric of of politics in today’s climate, this can be surprising, but clearly all of America isn’t engaging in these extremes. Maybe the large percentage of independents and the rise of two fringe candidates — Bernie and Donald — is an indication that America will soon move away from its two-party system.

Only time will tell.

Mason Johnson is a Web Content Producer for CBS Chicago. You can find him on Twitter.

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