Emotions are now widely accepted as important elements of qualitative research, in studies of individuals and communities. However, collective emotional status—what a community feels about a given situation or proposition—can be challenging to assess. In this study, we examined the validity and acceptability of a new mixed methods survey tool, primarily qualitative, to address this challenge—the Assessment of Collective Emotional Status (ACES). The tool begins with an adjustable set of questions about emotion, to draw respondents’ attention to their own feelings. These are followed by an emotional self-assessment, in which respondents select and prioritize five emotional responses to a standardized stimulus, drawing from a new taxonomy of emotion words. In this study, the stimulus was a proposition that gun violence should be approached as a public health problem. We tested the tool in an international survey of public health professionals, mostly in the US and Europe (n=160). Qualitative and quantitative data were collected on knowledge and importance of emotion, adequacy of the taxonomy, emotional responses to the stimulus, and use of the tool. Scores were high for knowledge and importance of emotion. Perceived adequacy of the taxonomy was also high, especially with Black and Hispanic respondents, signifying good construct validity. The total weighted frequency of emotions in response to the stimulus was highest for encouraged (92.2%), open (78.8%), hope (77.2%) and interest (77.2%). Qualitative data yielded six themes—on knowledge of emotion, the taxonomy, responses to the stimulus, and use of the tool, which many respondents found easy and interesting to use. This study demonstrates the prima facie validity and acceptability of the ACES with an educated adult population.


Mixed Methods Research, Collective Emotion, Assessment Tool, Validity, Gun Violence

Author Bio(s)

Michael Schwab holds a DrPH in public health from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MSc from London University. He has thirty years’ experience of public health research and practice in Europe, Africa and the Americas, in fields as diverse as nutrition and food aid, emotion and eating disorders, and child health and children’s rights. In 2007, he joined the faculty at Walden University, where he serves as chair for doctoral researchers doing qualitative research. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: michael.schwab@mail.waldenu.edu.

Vasileios Margaritis holds a PhD and MSc in Community Dentistry from the University of Athens, and post doc certificates in epidemiology and qualitative research from the Universities of London and Oxford. After several years in private dental practice, he joined the faculty at Walden University, where he teaches epidemiology, biostatistics, and community preventive dentistry. His research includes community-based studies in oral epidemiology and disability. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: vasileios.margaritis@mail.waldenu.edu.


The enthusiastic participation of all the health professionals who participated in the design and testing of this new tool is gratefully acknowledged.

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