In the US, we tend to blame a lot of problems with elections on the media or on people's political attitudes. However, I think there are some problems inherent with the electoral system we've inherited from the English. In America, we've had two nationally viable political parties for most of our history as well as lower than average voter turnout. For many reasons, other Liberal Democracies don't experience these problems to the same extent as we do here in the US.
First World Turnout.jpg
The above graph shows voter turnout in liberal democracies organized by their electoral family (Plurality-Majoritarian (US, Canada), Semi Proportional (Japan), and Proportional Representation (Germany, Sweden)) from 1945 to 2006 (IDEA 2006).
This is because in countries where politicians are elected based on a majority or plurality of the votes in their district, citizens are less likely to waste their vote if they choose between two major party candidates. Voter turnout would be higher if if voters could choose between a variety of candidates with a lower likelihood that their vote will be wasted.
For reference, the map below shows countries organized by color into their respective electoral families. Countries that elect representatives via a plurality or a majoritarian system are tan, countries that use a form of proportional representation are red and countries that use a blend of the two are orange.
*All graphs and data are generated by Student Microcase Explorit software and contain data collected by IDEA.
@IMPress Polly might have more to contribute to this.