(CNN) - President Barack Obama leads his Republican rivals in two of the most critical battlegrounds in November's general election, but the third contest - Pennsylvania - remains locked in a statistical tie, according to a survey released Wednesday.
The Quinnipiac University Poll also showed the president's approval rating failing to crack 50% in any of the three states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
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Obama bested Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in Florida 49%-42%, and led the former Massachusetts governor in Ohio 47%-41%.
In Pennsylvania, 45% of respondents backed Obama while 42% backed Romney. The 3-point margin was within the poll's sampling error. When matched against Rick Santorum, a former senator from the Keystone State, Obama took a more decisive lead, besting Santorum 48%-41%.
Santorum fared worse against Obama in the other battleground states, favored by 37% of voters in Florida and 40% in Ohio.
All three states will play key roles in the general election - neither votes consistently for either party, and large numbers of independent voters make up each state's electorate. Obama took both states by slim margins in 2008.
"President Barack Obama is on a roll in the key swing states," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement accompanying the poll's release. "If the election were today, he would carry at least two states. And if history repeats itself, that means he would be re-elected."
Obama's edge over Romney and Santorum represents a boost for the president, who last year trailed Romney in head-to-head match-ups.
"The biggest reason for the president's improving prospects probably is the economy," Brown said. "Roughly six in 10 voters in all three states think the economy is recovering. Moreover, voters blame the oil companies and oil-producing countries for the rise in gasoline prices and only about one in six voters blame them on President Obama.
While he did best his Republican rivals, Obama's approval ratings in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania failed to hit 50%. In Florida and Ohio, 47% of voters approved of Obama's performance as president, while in Pennsylvania Obama's rating stood at 45%.
On the question of whether or not Obama deserved to be re-elected, voters in the three swing states were split. In Florida, 50% said he deserved another term, compared with 48% in Ohio. Forty-six percent of Pennsylvania voters said Obama deserved a second term.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted by phone March 20-26, and surveyed 1,228 voters in Florida, 1,246 voters in Ohio and 1,232 voters in Pennsylvania. The sampling error in each state was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.