RALEIGH, N.C. — A new poll finds that Republicans are more tolerant of high school students wearing a Confederate battle flag to school than they are of students wearing a gay pride (rainbow) flag to school.

The mid-November poll by Raleigh-based based Public Policy Polling, which primarily focused on prospective presidential candidates for the 2016 elections, found that 43 percent of GOP respondents said wearing the Confederate flag was acceptable, compared to only 28 percent who said wearing the rainbow flag was acceptable.

The poll prompted immediate public reaction, including a harsh rebuke of its results by Washington Post political columnist Jonathan Capehart, who called the Confederate flag “no better than a Swastika.”

“It is a symbol of white supremacy, hate and oppression that has no place in American political discourse,” wrote Capehart. “Meanwhile, the rainbow that is the gay pride flag symbolizes inclusion and acceptance.”

“The rainbow flag is the very antithesis of the Confederate flag. That the latter is deemed more acceptable than the former is deplorable,” he wrote.

The Confederate battle flag, so named as it was designed in 1861 by Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, replaced the Confederate national ensign known as the “Stars and Bars” because its close resemblance to the U.S. Stars and Stripes caused confusion for troops on both sides of the U.S. civil war.

Display of the battle flag has generally been fraught with racial tension, particularly after it was co-opted by elements of the Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups, who often used it to intimidate minority groups after the Civil War and up to the present day.

Many black Americans view the Confederate flag as distasteful and symbolic of racism, while others — principally some white southerners, and others — view the flag as a “heritage” issue regarding southern states’ rights and the history of the “war between the states,” defending its use a memorial to southern troops lost in battle. : :

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