I am trying to search for JIRA cards with graphical emoticons (smileys), i.e. flag symbol = (flag). However, I can’t find the format to make JIRA consider the entire text string. Using "\(flag\)" or "\\(flag\\)" will still return instances of the plain word flag.
This is a current limitation of JIRA. Characters like () aren't getting actually used in the search query, which is why you are still seeing other issues with just the word "flag" in the results.
There is a related post to this over in https://community.atlassian.com/t5/JIRA-questions/Escaping-special-characters-in-Jira-JQL-Search/qaq-p/351171
On that page, Jamie has a response where you could use the scriptrunner plugin to extend the functionality of JQL searching in JIRA and then use a issueFieldMatch operator that would allow a regex query to search for these kinds of characters. Maybe this would help here as well.
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