We present a thermodynamic study of the interaction of synthetic, linear polyelectrolytes with bovine serum albumin (BSA). All polyelectrolytes are based on poly(allyl glycidyl ether) which has been modified by polymer-analogous reaction with anionic (-SO3Na), cationic (-NH3Cl or -NHMe2Cl) or zwitterionic groups (-NMe2(CH2)3SO3). While the anionic polymer shows a very weak interaction, the zwitterionic polymer exhibits no interaction with BSA (pI = 4.7) under the applied pH = 7.4, ionic strength (I = 23–80 mM) and temperature conditions (T = 20–37 °C). A strong binding, however, was observed for the polycations bearing primary amino or tertiary dimethyl amino groups, which could be analysed in detail by isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC). The analysis was done using an expression which describes the free energy of binding, ΔGb, as the function of the two decisive variables, temperature, T, and salt concentration, cs. The underlying model splits ΔGb into a term related to counterion release and a term related to water release. While the number of released counter ions is similar for both systems, the release of bound water is more important for the primary amine compared to the tertiary N,N-dimethyl amine presenting polymer. This finding is further traced back to a closer contact of the polymers’ protonated primary amino groups in the complex with oppositely charged moieties of BSA as compared to the bulkier protonated tertiary amine groups. We thus present an investigation that quantifies both driving forces for electrostatic binding, namely counterion release and change of hydration, which contribute to a deeper understanding with direct impact on future advancements in the biomedical field.