Monmouth University Polling Director Patrick Murray says that pollster Joel Benenson has a history of “smearing” polls that have his candidate ahead and defended the methodology used in a Gannett New Jersey poll released yesterday that shows Tom Kean, Jr. leading Bob Menendez by six points. “Benenson’s critique of the latest Monmouth University poll on the Senate race is based on inaccurate assumptions about the poll’s methodology, specifically the demographic composition of the final voter sample,” Murray said in an e-mail to PoliticsNJ.com. “My poll releases always indicate the ‘unweighted’ number of respondents in each demographic group so that informed poll observers can make their own assessment of the margin of error within each group. I do worry that unsophisticated poll watchers may misinterpret these numbers, and this appears to be the case here.” “The weighted demographic distributions for party identification in Sunday’s poll — the distribution upon which the final horse race numbers are based — is 33% Dem, 26% Rep, and 41% Ind, which is slightly more Democratic than Benenson claims it ‘should’ be,” said Murray. “As to race, my voter sample is 12% African-American and 10% Hispanic, which is also higher than Benenson claims it should be.” “Unfortunately, Mr. Benenson has a history of smearing public polls when they don’t benefit his client. Four years ago, he blasted the Star-Ledger/Eagleton Poll for numbers which showed Doug Forrester taking a commanding lead over his client, Bob Torricelli. Two days after that poll was released, Torricelli pulled out of the race. I doubt very much that this would have happened if the internal campaign poll numbers did not match the public poll,” said Murray.