(CNN) - A new poll suggests that Democrats are on the rise in Ohio, which will hold two important statewide elections this November and is considered a crucial battleground in the race for the White House.
A Quinnipiac University survey of Ohio voters released Wednesday indicates that the two Democratic contenders for their party's Senate nomination have made gains in possible November matchups against Republican Rob Portman. The poll also found that President Barack Obama's approval rating has rebounded, as have opinions of the health care reforms passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama.
According to the poll, 41 percent of Ohio voters support Lt. Gov Lee Fisher and 37 percent back Portman, a former Republican congressman who served as budget director and U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, in a hypothetical general election matchup. Fisher trailed Portman by three points in a Quinnipiac survey in February. Both margins are within the poll's sampling error.
In a separate hypothetical race, 38 percent say they support Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and 37 percent back Portman. Brunner trailed Portman by five points last month. Republican Sen. George Voinovich is not running for re-election this year.
The poll indicates that Ohio voters are split on the job that Obama is doing as president: 47 percent approve, up three points from February, and 48 percent disapprove, down four points from last month.
While a majority of Ohioans remain opposed to the new health care law, the margin is down. Half of those questioned oppose the legislation, down five points from November, with 43 percent supporting it, up seven points from last fall. Ohio voters say by a 13-point margin that they are more likely to vote against their representative if he or she voted in favor of the president's health care plan.
"Perhaps it's the passage of the health care overhaul and the fact that people like being with a winner: There has been a small, but consistent movement toward Democratic candidates and causes in Ohio in the last month," says Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Whether this is the beginning of a long-term move or not won't be clear for some time, perhaps until November."
According to the poll, a jump among Independents is partially behind the bump in Obama's overall approval rating, but a majority of Independents still disapprove of the job he's doing in office.
In the battle for Ohio governor, Democratic incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland remains five points ahead of GOP challenger and former Congressman John Kasich.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted March 23-29, with 1,526 registered Ohio voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.