Cooperation in the form of vote trading, also known as logrolling, is central for law-making processes, shaping the development of democratic societies. Measuring vote trading is challenging because it happens behind closed curtains. Hence, it is not directly observable. Empirical evidence of logrolling is scarce and limited to highly specific situations because existing methods are not easily applicable to broader contexts. We have developed a general and scalable methodology for revealing a network of vote traders, allowing us to measure logrolling on a large scale. Analysis on more than 9 million votes spanning 40 years in the U.S. Congress reveals a higher logrolling prevalence in the Senate and an overall decreasing trend over recent congresses, coincidental with high levels of political polarization. Our method is applicable in multiple contexts, shedding light on many aspects of logrolling and opening new doors in the study of hidden cooperation.


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