This paper deals with the problems of social acceptance and social support of the welfare state. It starts with a brief presentation of approaches which infer in an immediate way from the self-interest of the citizens as welfare beneficiaries (‘beneficial involvement’) to the question of social acceptance. Although the importance of this factor is undisputed, the conceptual reliance on a purely interest-defined understanding remains insufficient since it does not explain why the welfare state institutions also find social acceptance amongst groups which are not net-beneficiaries. The issue of how social support is constituted will be reframed in three respects. Firstly, the supportive attitudes towards the welfare state are not solely motivated by the benefit status, they are also related to the expectation of returns. Thereby the welfare institutions are perceived as guarantors of intertemporal risk balancing. This expectation of future benefits makes people willing to accept an enormous redistribution from welfare contributors to receivers. Secondly, it will be argued that the normative dimension, i.e. what people find equitable, just and fair, can be viewed as a complementary dimension of self-interest without which the phenomena of social acceptance or disregard cannot be grasped. Thirdly, the institutional architecture of welfare programmes will be introduced as the crucial determinant of the codetermination of self-interest and the normativity. By comparing the United Kingdom and Germany (East and West), the relation between institutional designs and individual orientations will be investigated more in detail. At first, the institutional architecture of both welfare states will be presented with special emphasis on the mode of interest integration in terms of ‘beneficial involvement’ and the conditions of ‘return expectations’, on the one hand, and the ‘normative references’, on the other. In a subsequent analysis of the attitudinal patterns within the different welfare regimes, this perspective will be sharpened further. Databasis will be the ISSP 1996 (International Social Survey Programme) with its module ‘Role of Government’. Within different fields of social policy (pension, unemployment, income redistribution) it will be looked at the groupspecific effects of the institutional architecture and the extent of attitudinal differentiation. From this, some conclusions will be drawn of how welfare institutions condition and generate social acknowledgement and support.