The Democrats hoped to use the August recess to build support for their sweeping overhaul of the American health-care system and to unify against GOP opposition to the effort.  Instead, they wound up losing ground in public opinion, according to Gallup, and getting chased out of their districts by angry constituents.  Fewer Americans are undecided at the end of five weeks of loud debate, and more of the previously undecided now oppose the bill than support it (via Jim Geraghty):

The American people are no less divided on healthcare reform today than they were a month ago. A new Gallup Poll finds 39% of Americans saying they would direct their member of Congress to vote against a healthcare reform bill this fall while 37% want their member to vote in favor.

One in four Americans (24%) say they have no opinion about which way their representative should vote on a healthcare reform bill, down only slightly from early August.

The new Gallup Poll, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 2, suggests the issue could be politically potent in 2010. Sixty-four percent of Americans say their representative’s position on healthcare reform will be a major factor in their vote in the next congressional election; just over a third say it will be no more than a minor factor.

That brings up the Gallup sampling method.  Gallup surveyed adults, not registered voters or likely voters, which tends to produce better numbers for liberals and liberal policy positions.  They use that sampling method consistently, so the comparison between surveys remains valid, which showed a three-point gain in opposition to ObamaCare and a two-point gain in support for it.

The all-inclusive adults sample does not work very well in predicting electoral results, however.  The 64% who said that the issue will be a factor in their vote will include more of the likely voters than unlikely voters, which portends a very bad midterm in 2010 for Democrats.  In fact, 82% of those opposing ObamaCare say their vote will depend on this issue, while only 62% of supporters make the same claim.  That becomes even more clear when the trend among older adults, who are much more reliable voters, is seen in the demographics.  Adults over 55 oppose ObamaCare by nine points, 44%-35%.

Independents also are a big red flag.  Opposition leads support among independents by 15 points.  Both parties need independents for the midterms, and without them, Democrats could well lose their House majority.  In a poll of adults, those independent numbers look even worse.

Democrats hoped to use August to proselytize for a government-run health-care system.  Instead, they got painfully schooled on American resistance to radical politics.  Whether they learned from it will be the question as Congress escapes its constituents and gets back to work.