When the Senate rejected an amendment to expand background checks on gun sales earlier this month, it was moving against the desire of an overwhelming majority of Americans, poll after poll showed.

In the aftermath of the vote, most Americans said they believe the Senate shouldn't have rejected background checks. And even more Americans -- including a clear majority of Republicans -- support expanding background checks with the Senate entirely removed from the equation, new data from Gallup show.

The Gallup poll conducted an experiment where half of those polled were asked whether the Senate should have passed a measure to expand background checks. The other half were asked a different question on background checks without mentioning the Senate action.

In the first question, 65 percent of Americans said the Senate should have passed background checks, while 29 percent agreed with the upper chamber's decision to reject the measure.

What if the Senate were removed from the equation, and Americans could cast direct votes for or against background checks? (This was the second Gallup question asked of the other half of poll respondents.) It becomes an even more popular idea, with more than eight in 10 Americans supporting it.

The most striking contrast between a Senate vote and a direct vote is evident among Republicans, who were split over whether the Senate should have passed the amendment, but said overwhelmingly that they would vote directly for a law expanding background checks.

What to make of it all? One possible explanation is, as Gallup notes, that reminding people about the failure of the Senate bill might prompt more of them to oppose it. Another explanation is the historic unpopularity of Congress. When Americans hear "Senate" they may have less faith in the positions they support personally.

Or, the opposite may be true. It could be that people had a sense of the debate in Congress and know that it was Republicans who opposed the legislation. So Americans, particularly Republicans, could be showing team spirit, in a sense.

Of course, if a federal law to expand background checks is going to pass, it will have to happen through Congress, so the idea of a direct vote is moot. But it's also further evidence that as an idea, expanding background checks on gun purchases remains popular among most Americans and, notably, among most Republicans.

Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement contributed to this post. Craighill and Clement are pollsters with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media.