I'm reading Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil! It is well-known that he was a socialist, and of course, the notion of socialism is a strong theme in his writing. In Oil!, a young man is enrolled in a university in California. His friends don't seem to care for his socialist views so far but I'm struggling to put this in context. In around 1920, how popular was the idea of socialism/support for the Soviets, both among students and faculty at US universities?
The First Red Scare in the U.S. was a period of time lasting from about 1918-1920 in which news of the Russian Revolution led to increased fear of similar communist revolution occurring in the United States and an increased rise of government raids on organizations believed to be planning such a revolution, which had a chilling effect on radical leftist speech of the time.
As such, if it was popular among college campuses at the time, it was not openly discussed out of fear of retaliation. Given that historically the U.S. has never embraced socialism/communism and that U.S. foreign policy was actively supporting anti-Bolshivic forces in Russia, it was likely not to have caught a firm hold in America at any level in the 1920s. While there were socialist organizations in the U.S. as early as 1848, the popularity of such organizations was never high enough to reach widespread numbers.