The aim of this article is to examine the link between the quality of social protection and citizens' satisfaction with the functioning of democracy – an association that has received very limited attention in the rich body of empirical research on popular satisfaction with democracy. To test the hypothesis that social protection levels influence citizens' satisfaction with democracy, the article conducts a multi-level regression analysis using European Social Survey (2008/9) data from 24 countries. The results of the analysis demonstrate that between-country differences are linked to variation in social protection levels, and within-country differences depend on individual satisfaction with social provision, while controlling for other relevant factors. The findings indicate that people do expect democratic regimes to provide social protection along with economic performance and thus suggest that democratic governments face a challenge in meeting simultaneous demands for social protection and economic prosperity. Altogether, the study contributes to debates about the implications of welfare policies and citizen satisfaction with regime performance.