Fla. congressman hears it from constituents about Syria

(CBS News) PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Are Americans behind the president for his call of U.S. airstrikes in Syria? The Pew Research Center conducted a poll on that question and found that about 29 percent were in favor, 48 percent opposed, and 23 percent said they don't know.

Republican Florida Congressman Steve Southerland says he is leaning towards voting against the use of U.S. military force in Syria. CBS News

Meanwhile, U.S. congressmen are getting an earful of opinion in their last week at home before returning to Washington. One of them is Florida Republican Steve Southerland.

"Why is this so special that it requires U.S. intervention?" asked one constituent at a Panama City, Florida diner, where a dozen voters peppered Southerland with questions about Syria. Southerland said he's leaning against voting to authorize the use of force.

"Overwhelmingly, we are hearing pushback from our citizens against military intervention in Syria," he said about what he's heard.

Southerland narrowly won his seat in the 2010, becoming the first Republican from this district since it was formed in 1963. He's expecting a competitive race in 2014, which could be further complicated by his vote on Syria.

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He told us he would be prepared to face a backlash in his district if the administration is able to present him with something to change his mind. "That's a factor. But every vote has some backlash. So I'm used to that."

Southerland's district in the Florida Panhandle includes Tyndall Air Force Base and has a large veteran population.

Retired Air Force Col. D.W. Smith is concerned that intervention in Syria could lead to a greater escalation of conflict. CBS News

D.W. Smith, a retired Air Force colonel who served in Iraq, worries us intervention in Syria could lead to a wider war. "One of the are the unintended consequences is going to be how are we going to end this and not have it grow out of control or flame out of control?"

Asked how much war fatigue is a factor, Southerland said: "That's a huge part of our decision-making process, to make sure that the most weighty decisions of sending men and women into conflict that we have done so with heart, mind and soul."

Congressman Southerland has also asked constituents to call or email him regarding Syria. He said so far 300 people have and 96 percent of them oppose U.S. intervention.