Last week, Jacqui Smith replaced all previous police targets with just one - to increase public confidence in the police by 15 per cent.
The Home Secretary said she wants to see at least 60 per cent of people confident that the police are addressing what matters locally by 2012.
But John Graham, director of independent charity the Police Foundation, said: 'It clearly smacks of political opportunism. They know there is a connection between confidence in public services and voting intentions. This is a pretty cynical move.'
Metropolitan Police director of public affairs and corporate comms Dick Fedorcio said: 'Engagement is the main driver to public confidence and comms has a key part to play in that.' Fedorcio pointed to local media, social media and leafleting as useful tactics in improving public confidence.
Home Office figures show confidence levels vary across the country, with the national average at 46 per cent.