The Acceptance of the Welfare State

Research question/goal: 

The acceptance or public support of the welfare state has been a major concern in theoretical debates and empirical research for a long time. It is widely acknowledged that at least a minimum of political support is a functional prerequisite for the effectiveness and stability of the welfare state. Furthermore, a broad acceptance is often regarded as the key justification for socio-political interventions. Nonetheless, the findings of national and comparative research, while substantiating high support for the key institutions of the welfare state, are problematic in many respects. The project aimed at providing a better knowledge about the degree and the causes of the social acceptance of the welfare state. Therefore, a representative survey on the public support for the core institutions of the German welfare state had been conducted. This was the first time in Germany that acceptance judgements about substantial welfare institutions were generated by a survey especially designed for this purpose. Research outcome: The purpose of the research project was the analysis of the social acceptance of the German welfare state. An interest in the social support of welfare institutions presupposes that at least a minimum of public acceptance is a functional prerequisite for the effectiveness and stability of the welfare state. One of the main findings was that preferences concerning social security are predominantly influenced by normative orientations (e.g. justice, solidarity) and subjective perceptions (e.g. the expected need of benefits). In contrast, the impact of the social position and other socio-demographic variables (like social class or age) proved to be rather limited.

Fact sheet

Fritz Thyssen-Stiftung / MZES
2003 to 2006
Data Sources: 
primary quantitative survey
Geographic Space: 



Ullrich, Carsten G. (2008): Die Akzeptanz des Wohlfahrtsstaates. Präferenzen, Konflikte, Deutungsmuster. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. more