Almost 90% of people cannot name their local police commissioner after a "bungled" election, according to a new report.
The Electoral Reform Society, which carried out the survey, said November's elections, which cost £75 million, had "failed both candidates and voters alike".
Ministers billed the elections as a historic reform to the way the police service is run, saying it would make it more accountable.
But Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society said: "This was a flagship policy designed to reconnect the public and the police.
"Yet, after spending £75m, nearly 90% of Britons have no idea who their elected police and crime commissioner even is.
"November's bungled poll failed both candidates and voters. Government mismanagement has handed our elected commissioners a poisoned chalice, and it remains unclear how they can overcome it."
The 41 Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have the power to set force budgets and even hire and fire chief constables.
But the process was marred by a record-low turnout with only around one in seven bothering to go to the ballot box, and the anticipated high-profile candidates failed to materialise.
The report described November's poll as "an exercise in how not to run an election".
The campaign group claimed people were "left in the dark about who they could vote for", while the turnout was reduced because the election was held in the winter.
It also said candidates were kept away by "huge deposits, unclear eligibility rules, vast electoral districts and high campaign costs".
A survey of over 1,000 adults commissioned by the society found just 11% of people know who their elected PCC is.
The society made a number of recommendations for the next PCC election, which included not holding a poll in winter, ensuring a "level playing field for candidates through well-designed election rules", and posting information on the candidates to voters.
The report comes after more criticism by electoral staff, who said voters were not at the heart of the PCC elections.
The Association of Electoral Administrators reported that information was not readily accessible and not well co-ordinated at a national level.
The Home Office claimed turnout would be higher in future elections as people get to grips with who the PCCs are.