All games require people to be at least somewhat invested in playing properly, otherwise what's the point in playing in the first place?
I think the issue is made clear in your line about how there "was a social dynamic of people not wanting to argue, and 'let's just get on with the game'" - sorry, but arguing in The Resistance IS the game. Without the discussion, it's just a game of voting. It's already a short game (20-30 minutes), what is to be gained by rushing through it?
Sounds to me like the group weren't that up for playing. It is a game that requires the right group of people as you say. Although I will add the caveat that lots of people I didn't think would be into it will often surprise you with how invested they get.
Some people will take at least one game to establish properly how it works and what opportunities are available (and yes, you may need to artificially inflate the drama a little by throwing some accusations around perhaps more than you normally would). Some people however simply will not get it and won't get invested (my brother for example, couldn't understand why the spies would bother lying - which makes no sense, but whatever).